linkGrays Harbor Paper mill appears in serious peril
Wednesday, May 25, 2011 - 16:03
BY JACOB JONES
The Daily World
After struggling for years with a difficult paper market, the Grays Harbor Paper mill in Hoquiam appeared to be in serious peril today, potentially laying off more than 230 employees on short notice.
As a mix of news and rumors spread through the Harbor, company president Patrick Quigg would not confirm or deny whether the mill had shut down.
“We’re trying to get the word out (to employees),” he said. “We’ve got about 230 people to call.”
Multiple employees and family members reported receiving notification that they were being laid off. No steam churned from the smokestack this afternoon. Local officials reported the company had struggled to secure much-needed financing.
Quigg said he would comment after the company had talked to all of its employees.
One man, who identified himself as a company employee but would not give his name, said he had been told not to report for work today. He said the boiler was shut down late this morning and the mill was “pronounced dead.”
Hoquiam Mayor Jack Durney said he had not received any official notice of the status of the mill, but a closure would have a significant impact on the community.
“We need to be enormously grateful to the Quigg family for taking (the mill) on,” he said, listing jobs, products and tax revenue brought in by the facility. “I have a lot of respect for what they’ve done.”
Durney said so many layoffs would undoubtly ripple through local families and businesses. It would also cut into utility and property tax revenue at the city.
Employees said more than 230 salaried managers and union employees were laid off. The man said the company had struggled financially, but did not immediately give workers any official explanation.
“They didn’t give us any notice,” he said. “They haven’t told us anything yet. ... They’ve left everyone else out of the loop.”
Rep. Brian Blake said he received notice from the Governor’s Office that state officials hoped to find federal assistance to keep the mill running. The Governor’s Office could not immediately confirm those efforts.
Sen. Brian Hatfield, D-Raymond, says he and fellow Sen. Jim Hargrove, D-Hoquiam, were also briefed about a possible shutdown of Grays Harbor Paper on Wednesday by the Governor’s Office.
Hargrove said former company president Bill Quigg was in Olympia on Wednesday meeting with state officials.
“I’m sad like everybody else,” Hatfield said. “I’ve heard the rumors about their finances and now we do have folks from the Governor’s Office and elsewhere to see what can be done to help.”
But Hatfield said things are different now than in years past when B&O tax breaks and sales tax breaks could be offered to help sustain mills like Grays Harbor Paper. Now, the whole state’s economy is hurting.
“How ironic that we celebrate within one week with the re-opening of the Cosmopolis Pulp Mill and then we get this kind of news,” Hatfield said. “I wish we could say we’re not used this to this kind of news. ...
“Nobody’s going to give up,” he added. “We’re going to keep looking but we don’t want to give anybody false hopes.”
Sen. Hargrove said, “I know we’re all willing to take and do whatever we can.”
But Hargrove said that loans and money can’t just be given to Grays Harbor Paper.
“I think we’re going to need some kind of business plan this time. What is the problem? Why did this happen?”