By Michael Whitney, October 8, 2013, Snohomish County Tribune
A Seattle-based maritime and transportation company is buying the former Kimberly-Clark Mill site.
Saltchuk Resources finalized an exclusive purchase agreement to buy the 66-acre site late last month. The sale may close by late spring 2014 if all goes smoothly.
Saltchuk plans to make Everett its ship repair headquarters for subsidiary Foss Maritime Co., an internationally known tugboat and ship towing company. Foss’ operations are boxed in at its current location at Seattle’s Ballard Locks, preventing it from working on larger vessels.
Foss’ 250 family-wage jobs would move to Everett in the next two years and company leaders said last week the Everett site gives the company room to grow.
Saltchuk chairman Matt Tabbutt suggested the company could add other operations on the site, and said Everett is a natural fit for a winter homeport for its oil exploration subsidiary.
Foss is one of Saltchuk’s five subsidiaries in the marine shipping, air cargo and trucking industries. The company’s name means “saltwater” in the Chinook language.
Because the shipyard is a water-dependent business, Saltchuk won’t be required to provide public access to the waterfront. The city will look at adding public access on Kimberly-Clark owned land at the northern tip of the city.
Saltchuk will be reviewing the site through January. A public site plan should be available by then.
Kimberly-Clark in the meanwhile will continue remedial toxic cleanup work on the land, Kimberly-Clark spokesman Bob Brand said last week.
Another contaminated area near the site called the East Waterway may pose issues, though.
The state Department of Ecology identified toxins in the waterway that need to be cleaned up, but it is still in the process of identifying responsible parties. So far, Ecology identified Kimberly-Clark, the Port of Everett and the state Department of Natural Resources as possible liable parties.
A plan for cleaning up the wood chips and other contaminants has yet to be worked out.
The cleanup work could impact Foss’ shipbuilding operations, but the company’s possible arrival could speed up Ecology’s timeline, a city attorney Jay Manning said last week.
The cleanup, if coordinated, is doable, Manning said.
Saltchuk officials spent the latter part of last week speaking with Ecology.
In 2012, Kimberly-Clark blamed pollution issues in the East Waterway as one reason a one-time potential buyer lost its financial backing and exited from negotiations.
To that end, city officials noted Saltchuk is well-financed and in a strong position to buy the site.
Among the site’s suitors, Saltchuk was one of the best options, Mayor Ray Stephanson said.
Saltchuk is a profitable privately held company that generates $2.4 billion in annual revenues and employs 6,500 people nationally, a company document states.
Foss, which turns 125 years old next year, is America’s largest coastal and harbor service company and earns $435 million in revenue a year.
City leaders said Saltchuk is a boon for the city.
“Frankly, Saltchuk is the kind of company we were hoping to attract … one that is well suited to take full advantage of the site’s unique characteristics while bringing family-wage jobs to Everett,” Brand said.
The Port of Everett was also interested in the site.
The port is still interested in the site, but has no hard feelings Saltchuk made the offer, port spokeswoman Lisa Lefeber said.
“It really is a good thing for the community,” Lefeber said, adding that Saltchuk’s maritime business could benefit the port.
Saltchuk’s offer came while the port was still conducting an environmental site review, Lefeber said.
“We see tremendous opportunity and potential for further growth at the Everett site, a deep water port with unrestricted waterways,” Tabbutt said in a statement. “And we believe the redevelopment of this site as a shipyard and maritime complex will contribute a vital economic base to the Everett community.”
The announcement happened Wednesday, Oct. 2 at a quickly assembled meeting at Comcast Arena, people said. Some business leaders were called last-minute to attend.
“I’m excited that they’ve chosen to make Everett their long-term home,” Stephanson said.
The mill’s closure in April 2012 resulted in a loss of 700 jobs. Many who lost their job came from families with decades of working in the mill.
Foss’ relationship with the site dates back to the early 1950s when Foss delivered barges of wood chips to the Scott Paper Mill (which was later acquired by Kimberly-Clark).
Those wood chips are incidentally some of the contaminants mandated to be cleaned up in the East Waterway.