Matthew Bump is the owner of the land on which Yorktowne Paper mill stands at Loucks Mill Road, and he’s trying to reinvigorate the site. Monday,
Matthew Bump is the owner of the land on which Yorktowne Paper mill stands at Loucks Mill Road, and he's trying to reinvigorate the site. Monday, March 4, 2013. (Bil Bowden)

With his feet firmly planted in an old industrial yard and a will to get things done, local developer Matthew Bupp shared his plans to write the future of an old paper mill.

The smoke stacks remain, but the jobs are gone since Yorktowne Paperboard Corp. closed in October 2011.

Bupp wants to bring back the 80 jobs lost and then some, trying to forge deals with one of three national paper companies that can reinvigorate the old site at 1001 Loucks Mill Road in Spring Garden Township.

"It's an excellent opportunity," he said.

And Bupp said his track record proves he knows something about an excellent opportunity.

He previously purchased the former Smurfit-Stone paper mill and sold it to York College, enabling the institution to expand.

In addition to the deal in York, he's also redeveloping the Stehli Silk Mill in Lancaster County- a project that has granted contracts to two York County companies, York Roofing and Graham Architectural Products, in excess of $1 million each.

Built in 1898, the silk mill in Manheim Township is 215,000 square feet and spans the length of an aircraft carrier. It's zoned for mixed use and will likely be converted to residential and educational use, Bupp said.

"This is what I do. I buy big, blighted properties and reposition them," he said.

Helping: Bupp's partner in the Yorktowne mill project, Randy Lutz, also has a history in redevelopment. As an environmental lawyer for Saul Ewing LLP in Baltimore, he helped clean up the city's Inner Harbor.

The partners are also cleaning up the local mill, giving it a new facelift and revamping the office at the site.

How much the work will cost hasn't been disclosed, as the bidding process is ongoing.

"It's actually astonishingly clean, compared to Smurfit-Stone," Bupp said.

To clean up Smurfit-Stone, more than 2,000 truckloads of dirt were moved to better the 30-acre property.

Developers are finding less work needs to be done at the 70,000-square-foot warehouse and 12 acres of the Yorktowne mill.

"We can really focus on bringing jobs back to the area," Bupp said.

Proud past: Operations at the site, founded in 1945 as the Yorktowne Paper Mills, were once robust enough to support 100 to 250 employees and generate $25 million to $75 million in sales.

At its height, it produced about 100 tons of cardboard products every day.

In 1997, the company was acquired by New Jersey-based Newark Group, which operates several paper plants across the country.

The group closed the Spring Garden site in October 2011, laying off 78 workers. More than 60 of those employees belonged to the United Steelworkers union.

Jobs: That the mill may open once again is "great news," said Mike Smeltzer, executive director of the Manufacturers' Association of South Central Pennsylvania.

"There's some unique expertise here with that type of production," he said.

Though the Smurfit-Stone and Yorktowne paper mills closed, York-based Glatfelter has made paper in the county since 1864.

"As a result of that heritage, you find high-skilled support is very prevalent in the York area," Smeltzer said.

Bob Jensenius, executive vice president of the York County Economic Alliance, agreed that Bupp's plans are welcome news.

"The fact that the site can be retooled and be used for what it was originally designed for is very positive," he said.

It will also be a boost to the county.

"There will be a spillover effect of subcontractors getting hired and all those employees spending money in the local economy. A ripple effect will be created from those jobs," Jensenius said.

But if in the next six weeks Bupp can't get a paper company to commit to the site, he said he will have to redevelop it for another use.

"I'm keeping my fingers crossed for York County. I really want to bring those jobs back," Bupp said.

- Candy Woodall can also be reached at cwoodall@yorkdispatch.com.