By Noah Haglund
The (Everett) Daily Herald
Kimberly-Clark Corp. has agreed to sell the site of its former waterfront mill to the Seattle-based parent company for Foss Maritime Co., representatives for both sides announced in early October.
The deal with Saltchuk Resources could close next spring, if all goes well.
Under the plan, some 250 skilled maritime employees would relocate to Everett from Foss’ current location along Seattle’s Ship Canal, near Lake Union.
The former mill site would become home to dry docks, cranes and painting facilities. It also would be the winter home of vessels working for mines and remote oil drilling in the Alaskan Arctic.
”This will transform the waterfront in a very significant way, with a company I think we all really respect,” Everett Mayor Ray Stephanson said.
The water-dependent uses Saltchuk plans for the former mill site do not allow for public access, Stephanson said.
Foss says it is the largest U.S. tug and barge company on the Pacific Rim. The company reports about $435 million in annual revenues. It owns about 180 vessels and maintains two shipyards. In addition to its own tugs and barges, it also performs maintenance on fishing boats, yachts and ferries. (Foss Maritime has moored tugboats at the Bellingham Shipping Terminal for the past decade or so.)
”We see tremendous opportunity and potential for further growth at the Everett site, a deep-water port with unrestricted waterways,” Saltchuk Chairman Mark Tabbutt said. “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 company’s current location inside the Ballard Locks is inaccessible to larger ships.”
This decreases the market that Foss has been able to pursue,” Tabbutt said.
The Everett site, company leaders said, gives the company immediate access to a deep, saltwater port. They also hope for long-term growth.
”Two-hundred and fifty is the starting number” of employees, Saltchuk President Tim Engle said. “We don’t know what the end number will be 10 years from now.”
Foss’ current ship-building projects in Seattle will continue at that location over the next several years. Headquarters for Saltchuk, and Foss, will stay in Seattle.
Foss was founded in 1889 in Tacoma. From the 1950s until the late 1990s, Foss was active in Everett, hauling wood chips for Scott Paper Co.
”It’s not so much a story of Foss coming to Everett, but Foss returning to Everett,” Engle said.
Because the company has yet to develop a site plan, it’s unclear exactly when the employees would arrive in Everett. Three years might be a realistic time frame, he said.
Many of the people who will be relocated to Everett already live in Snohomish County, said Paul Stevens, president and CEO for Foss.
If the deal goes through, it could breathe new life into an economic dead zone where Everett city leaders have pinned hopes of attracting future blue-collar jobs.
About 700 people were put out of work when Kimberly-Clark shut down its paper and pulp mill in April 2012, following about 80 years of operation. That included families whose employment at the mill went back generations.
A City Council majority early this year rezoned the property to ensure that the immediate waterfront remains dedicated to maritime industry, though other uses are allowed farther from shore.
Major demolition finished up this summer.
”This is in the sweet spot of what we want to do our economy, which is to diversify and create family-wage jobs,” said Troy McClelland, president and CEO of Economic Alliance Snohomish County.
The Port of Everett, where McClelland serves as a commissioner, had shown interest in the mill property, but is now out of the running.Foss’ operations also are thought to be compatible with the security concerns of Naval Station Everett.
”We look forward to working with Saltchuk and Foss Maritime,” said Capt. James Duke, the base’s commanding officer.
For now, the 66-acre site remains covered in crushed concrete debris. The state Department of Ecology is working on a cleanup agreement for the land, which includes petroleum pollution and elevated levels of arsenic and other heavy metals.
Kimberly-Clark will remain responsible for that work. How to remove pollution from the waterway has yet to be addressed. New construction on the land is expected to take place simultaneously with the cleanup.
Foss is one of five different industrial groups within Saltchuk. Others focus on shipping, air cargo, trucking and fuel. Saltchuk is a second-generation family business founded in 1982 and is based out of an office on Seattle’s Lake Union.
The company’s name means “saltwater” in the trade language known as Chinook Jargon. It employs 6,500 people nationwide, 800 of them in the Puget Sound region.
The price of the Kimberly-Clark land deal has not been disclosed. It’s been in the works for at least six months. A four-month due diligence period is set to end in mid-January, followed by final closing details.
Noah Haglund is a staff writer for The Daily Herald in Everett, Wash., a partner publication of The Bellingham Business Journal.