Potential buyer surfaces for Everett Kimberly-Clark mill

EVERETT — Kimberly-Clark Corp. has entered into serious talks with Atlas Holdings LLC to sell its pulp and paper mills, officials said Tuesday.

This summer, the company had warned its 750 workers that unless a buyer is found, it would shut the plants down early next year.

While saying

the announcement doesn’t mean there’s a deal, Kimberly-Clark spokesman Bob Brand said Atlas is a viable buyer “interested in continued operations of the Everett mill.”

He described Atlas as “a strong buyer candidate with extensive acquisition and pulp and paper industry experience.”

“We are pleased by their continued interest in the Everett site and their capability and experience in operations management,” he said.

Brand called the exclusive talks with Atlas a positive step forward but said it doesn’t mean there’s an agreement.

He said there’s no deadline, but he expected Atlas to take a couple weeks to examine the plant and talk with employees, union representatives and others.

“It’s information gathering and sharing at a more extensive level,” Brand said.

He said that since there’s no deal yet, the company will continue to work with local union representatives and employees to prepare for closing the plant,

Efforts to reach an Atlas spokesman for comment were unsuccessful.

The company has operations in North America, Europe and Australia in pulp and paper, packaging, building materials, equipment, energy, steel and industrial services.

Headquartered in Greenwich, Conn., it has 5,000 employees at 10 companies and 60 facilities. It earns $2 billion in annual revenue.

Among its companies is Finch Paper LLC, which produces printing paper at a mill on the Hudson River in New York state’s Adirondack Mountains. It is an integrated pulp and paper operation, just like the Everett mills.

Kimberly-Clark is also a worldwide manufacturer, and it announced some time ago it wanted to move out of the pulp business, which is why the Everett mills are for sale.

The news was unsettling to employees and to members of the community.

Generations of Snohomish County residents have worked at the mills, which are the last vestige of Everett’s heritage.

The city’s waterfront used to be covered with factories that made lumber, paper and other products, earning it the nickname “The City of Smokestacks.”

“It’s part of the community’s heart and soul,” Everett historian David Dilgard said of the K-C stacks, which issue steam these days, not smoke. “It comes from the days when people were proud to have a job that made your hands dirty … where you could make a living.”

Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Wash., called the exclusive talks good news for workers and for the city.

“As negotiations progress, I am hopeful that the local workforce will be seen as an asset that contributes to the facility’s growth,” he said. “These are good paying jobs that I want to see in Everett long into the future.”

Everett Mayor Ray Stephanson agreed with Larsen.

“We are committed to working with both companies toward a mutually beneficial outcome,” he said. “Our goal is to keep these family wage jobs in our community.”

The mill now owned by Kimberly-Clark was built on Everett’s waterfront in 1931 as Puget Sound Pulp and Timber Co., the mill helped build the city’s reputation as a prime pulp producing center. It became Soundview Pulp Co. in 1935 and was purchased by Scott Paper in 1951. Scott merged with Kimberly-Clark in 1985.

Since the merger, the company has invested about $300 million in the Everett operation, installing 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.

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