Kimberly-Clark to sell mills

Kimberly-Clark Corp. announced Tuesday that it has put its Everett pulp and tissue mills up for sale, saying it’s difficult to make money in the pulp business.

The company plans to continue to operate the mills, which employ 842 workers, until the sale, which it hopes will happen quickly.

“We’re confident based on initial inquiries that we will be very successful,” said Dave Faddis, a former manager of the Everett site who now is a vice president for family care products for Kimberly-Clark.

Kimberly-Clark announced the sale as part of a corporate restructuring on a day when it also announced flat quarterly profits for its final quarter. It plans to streamline, sell or close five or six plants to deal with rising costs for wood pulp and oil, major materials for its products.

Several years ago, K-C divested itself of its pulp mills in North America because they’re capital intensive and their profits are “feast or famine,” Faddis said.

At that time, it kept the Everett pulp mill because it was integrated with a tissue mill here. Tuesday’s announcement noted that the company is selling integrated operations in Everett and in Australia.

“We’ve been looking at the entire consumer tissue operation,” Faddis said. “It was a challenging decision. At our Everett facility, we were looking at a declining trend and we decided to reposture ourself and put it up for sale.”

Faddis said he thought the mills would be attractive to a company with a private label that wants to sell products in the Northwest.

Everett’s tissue products were sold along the West Coast, and the company intends to continue buying tissue products from the new buyer.

Everett Mayor Ray Stephanson said the mill has an important history in the comnunity.

“We are encouraged that the Kimberly-Clark Corp. understands the value of this asset in our community and that they are very positive of a potential buyer,” Stephanson said. “We fully support Kimberly-Clark’s efforts to secure a buyer that will protect jobs and minimize impacts on our community.

“The mill’s history in Everett is long, and we appreciate the many generations of families who have dedicated their skills and talents to the pulp and paper manufacturing trade.”

Sen. Nick Harper, D-Everett, said state officials have been “assured this was purely a business decision, and not anything state and local government did or failed to do.”

Rep. John McCoy, D-Tulalip, said company officials have assured lawmakers that they are trying to find a suitable buyer. “You better believe we will hold them to their word,” he said. “This news only strengthens our resolve to move our economy toward aerospace, biotech and clean technology. With such a diverse economy, our neighborhoods and towns can weather these unfortunate market changes.”

Rep. Mike Sells, D-Everett, mentioned the long history of the mills.

“We will do everything we can at the state level to ensure that these manufacturing jobs remain in our community,” he added.

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 Co. in 1951. In that era it employed about 2,000 people and vied with a Weyerhaeuser pulp mill as being 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 system, 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.

Faddis said Kimberly-Clark is committed to a sale to a buyer “who will be part of the community and will take care of our work force.” He said a sale could take from several months to as long as a year.

Mill manager Chris Isenberg has already been moved to Roswell, Ga., where he will oversee the company’s professional products. Faddis said Isenberg will be actively involved in the sale.

“He has a long history (in Everett) and it’s a big piece of his heart and passion,” Faddis said of Isenberg.

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