EVERETT 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 Wednesday, Oct. 2.
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.
"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."
Everett was chosen after extensive research.
"We studied every ice-free port from Dutch Harbor (Alaska) to Olympia," Tabbutt said.
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.
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.
"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.