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Originally published Thursday, May 26, 2011 at 6:42 PM

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Grays Harbor Paper shuts plant; 240 jobs lost

Grays Harbor Paper, a Hoquiam company that built a reputation for innovative green products, has announced a permanent shutdown resulting in the loss of nearly 240 jobs.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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Grays Harbor Paper, a Hoquiam company that built a reputation for innovative green products, has announced a permanent shutdown resulting in the loss of nearly 240 jobs.

The plant is one of the largest industrial employers in Grays Harbor County, which has struggled with a high unemployment rate that in April was 13 percent, according to a preliminary analysis by the state Employment Security Department.

"The closure comes as somewhat of a surprise. Many of us have known they have been struggling due to the high cost of pulp and the low cost of paper," said Randy Ross, chair of the Grays Harbor Economic Development Council. "This is going to be a hit."

Grays Harbor Paper's president, Patrick Quigg, could not be reached for comment Thursday, but a statement posted on the company website announced the shutdown of the plant.

The company used both virgin and recycled pulp to produce uncoated copy and printing papers, including a line known as Harbor 100 — produced from 100 percent post-consumer waste — that could command a premium price.

In the statement, Quigg said "lower than expected sales of high-value products, as well as the failure of a major refinancing effort" were factors in the decision to shut down.

The 18-year-old company worked hard to develop a national reputation as a green paper plant, said Bob Brennand, who served as plant manager until the winter of 2010. For example, it developed a system for retrieving slash that would have otherwise been burned in the forest, grinding up the wood wastes and then feeding it into the plant's boiler system.

"It was a real learning experience," Brennand said. "You had to find the right kind of trucks and the right kind of equipment to chip it."

County economic-development officials are hoping a state task force can be set up to seek out someone who might acquire and reopen the plant.

Despite the plant's closure, Ross said there are some encouraging signs of economic expansion in Grays Harbor County. Just last week, Cosmo Specialty Fiber opened a plant in Cosmopolis that will employ 200 workers to produce a high-purity cellulose.

The state is using a county site for constructing pontoons for restoring the Highway 520 bridge across Lake Washington.

There is also increased port activity. New silos have been erected to store Midwest grains bound for Pacific markets, and the port traffic this year is expected to be the highest of the past decade, said Ross.

Hal Bernton: 206-464-2581 or hbernton@seattletimes.com

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