Cascades Tissue Group exploring firmer West Coast presence

by: SPOTLIGHT FILE PHOTO - SPOTLIGHT FILE PHOTO After Boise Inc. announced its closure last year, Cascades Tissue Group wasn't sure if it could remain at its St. Helens location. Now the company is discussing a possible expansion.  Cascades Tissue Group continues to look at a possible expansion at the site it once shared with Boise Inc. in St. Helens.

A consultant representing the Canadian tissues company recently met with city officials and economic development groups to inform them Cascades was examining St. Helens, as well as other sites in the Pacific Northwest, for a place to establish the company more fully on the West Coast.

Marc Beauchamp of CAI Global, a consultant for Cascades, confirmed the visit but said he could not discuss details. He said his client is examining strategic options on the West Coast and “many other sites are being considered.”

St. Helens City Administrator John Walsh said the visit was encouraging and that he was led to believe St. Helens was near the top of the company’s list.

“We have an available workforce,” he said, adding that “an expansion of that kind makes sense.”

“These things tend to start and stop, start and stop,” said Brian Little, interim director with the Columbia County Economic Development Team. He was present at the meeting and said Beauchamp discussed an expansion that would increase the number of machines at the mill from one to two and require the hiring of approximately 60 more workers.

Boise’s announcement last year that it would be shutting down its only remaining paper machine by Dec. 31 and laying off 106 employees was discouraging news for Columbia County residents. In light of the closure, Cascades Tissue Group was not sure if it could remain open on its own, but then announced in December it would continue its operations and retain its 38 employees, as well as hire additional workers to take on tasks previously contracted out to Boise Inc.

Cascades has discussed converting Boise’s machine to handle tissues production, said Eric Prochnow, mill manager at the Cascades Tissue Group. However, such a conversion could cost more than $20 million and take close to a year to complete.

“We don’t have an answer on that yet,” he said. “I don’t expect one for a couple of months. ... There’s not a lot to report right now.”

At one point, the company had considered other options, including moving the mill’s one operating machine and the jobs attached to it to a mill in Wisconsin. Company executives decided, however, to keep the mill’s current Number 3 machine in St. Helens after examining revenue projections.

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