Tough Times
7:19 am
Fri May 27, 2011

Grays Harbor Paper closing Hoquiam mill

Grays Harbor Paper has shut down its mill in Hoquiam, putting a dour end to what had been a success story for 18 years. 

240 workers are losing their jobs. Many were shocked by the announcement, according to King-5 news.

“I thought this place was going to be in for the long haul,” said Tony Harris, who had worked for Grays Harbor Paper for two years.

Harris went to the unemployment office Thursday morning to file for benefits and look for work.

“A strong union outfit, that provides a good job with a good wage is getting harder and harder to come by,” said Harris.

The loss is especially tough for the area. Grays Harbor County already has one of the highest unemployment rates in the state at nearly 15 %.

The mill's president says the high price of raw materials, tanking sales and cash flow problems forced the closure.

"All of the employees will be affected by the shutdown, with the exception of a small support crew to maintain the facilities and sell all remaining inventory," Patrick Quigg said in a statement Thursday.

He says he would consider trying to sell the entire plant to a company that might be able to reopen it.

A history of loss and rejuvenation

The plant's emphasis on recycled paper had brought renewed vitality to the area, creating those green jobs two decades ago.

The mill's history dates to the 1920s. It had been shuttered by 1993, when local businessman Bill Quigg rallied his family and local investors to re-open it. They hired back previous mill employees and launched a new stream-lined operation focused on tapping into recycled paper markets.

Grays Harbor Paper was frequently cited in documentaries, television shows and national conferences about "green" industries that worked. It provided recycled paper to Nike, the City of Seattle, Microsoft, REI, the World Bank and other organizations. In 2009, the Legislature passed a bill requiring several state agencies to use at least 30 percent recycled papers; Grays Harbor Paper won most of those contracts.

The Quigg family kept the mill running through tough times, said Hoquiam Mayor Jack Durney,whose parents worked at the mill when it was operated by ITT-Rayonier.

"We need to be enormously grateful to the Quigg family for taking (the mill) on," he said. "I have a lot of respect for what they've done."