Without a buyer, Kimberly-Clark mill will close

EVERETT — Kimberly-Clark Corp., a major employer in Snohomish County, will shut down its operations here at the end of the year if a buyer isn’t found.

That’s what company officials told workers Thursday morning in meetings and also acknowledged to The Herald.

Early this year, the corporation announced that the Everett tissue mill and its companion pulp mill were for sale, saying it was difficult to make money in the pulp business.

It said it was hoping for a quick sale, but a buyer hasn’t been found.

“At this time, while we continue to pursue a possible sale agreement for the Everett mill, we must also plan for the absence of this outcome,” Bob Brand, company spokesman, said in a prepared statement issued after The Herald asked about the employee meetings. “Earlier today, we shared with our employees that we will begin preparations for scale down and closure of the Everett mill.”

The company employs about 850 people.

Brand said the company told workers today to give them as much notice as possible and “to ensure ample time to work in good faith with local mill management and union representatives to make necessary preparations for closure.”

He said that while the company is preparing for a shutdown, “we will continue to pursue a sale agreement with prospective buyers.”

In January, officials said they were confident of a sale based on initial inquiries, but that hasn’t happened.

The mills produce tissue used along the West Coast and have been a major employer for Snohomish County for decades.

Built on Everett’s waterfront in 1931 as Soundview Pulp Co., the mill helped build the city’s reputation as a prime pulp producing center. It was purchased by Scott Paper in 1951.

In that era, it employed about 2,000 people and vied with a Weyerhaeuser pulp mill as the city’s largest employer.

Kimberly-Clark engineered a $9.4 billion merger with Scott in 1995 in what was then the second-largest merger in United States history.

Since the merger, the company has invested about $300 million in the Everett operation, installing a major wastewater treatment systems, adding a new effluent outfall, and switching its pulp-making system from one based on chlorine to chlorine dioxide, which is considered more environmentally friendly.

It also teamed with Snohomish County PUD to operated a congeneration facility that burned waste wood to create electricity.

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