Monday, December 8, 2014

Roll 'Em If You Got 'Em (UPDATED)

File under NO SURPRISE AT ALL: Nippon is in the process of shutting down its paper operations in Port Angeles - and elsewhere.

Down, down, down...The ring of fired, the ring of fired...

Google "Nippon Shoalhaven," and you'll see that it seems Nippon is also shutting down a big paper mill in Australia. It employs about 75 people, and has been running just one production machine. They produce security-grade paper used to make passports.

So I guess the takeaway from this is that not only are fewer people reading newspapers, but fewer Australians are getting passports.

Whatever the case, this has clearly, undeniably been coming for years. Even the late "great" Harold Norlund spent his last years in Port Angeles talking about how the paper market was a shrinking market. Despite that, and despite all the other cultural and economic cues that this was coming, expect local leaders like Pat Downie and Cherie Kidd to be "shocked" by this news.

Pat Downie feels your...

I'd also expect that eternal booster of "industrial-type jobs," Peter Ripley to be among those gobsmacked by this announcement.

But I like to think that the people who read this blog are a little more astute than Peter, Pat and Cherie. I trust that many of you are less than shocked by this announcement, and that some of you are even, dare I say it, pleased?

As for me, I have to say I laughed out loud when I saw mill manager Steve Johnson refer to the PDN as a "source of intelligence." It's probably the first time the paper has been accused of that.

So what will the loggers and Luddites in Port Angeles do now, as the image of PA as a "Mill Town" continues to totally and utterly fall apart? Will this lead to self-examination and positive growth? Or will it simply add to the unemployment rate? Will those in charge recognize this as an opportunity? Or will they simply wring their hands in sorrow? Is there a Plan B for Port Angeles? Was there ever even a Plan A?

Stay tuned!


Yes, stay tuned...Because this move on Nippon's part also will cost the City of Port Angeles hundreds of thousands of dollars in utility taxes, according to a memo from City Manager Dan McKeen. He puts the figure at $360,000. That's quite a sizable chunk out of the already bloated and strained City budget - especially since the City views utility rates and taxes as their only viable growth area for "revenue."

Now that Nippon is going down, watch the City Council revisit whether or not your utility rates need to go up again, to make up the difference. Let's also watch to see what the City does when it gets to renegotiate Nippon's industrial water rate in the not-too-distant future.


  1. And just in time for Christmas!

  2. Let's see...A shrinking population...Fewer ferry runs to Victoria...A downtown that's essentially dead...No air carrier...A Turd Tank on our waterfront...Rampant drug abuse...And now, the beginning of the end for the final mill in town. And here we are, without even a movie theater to distract us from our troubles.

    Port Angeles 2015: More dead than alive, that's for sure.

    1. And, we noticed the story about the Port, and the marina? That the slips go 97% vacant. That even when they give free vouchers for the slips, noboby wants to keep their boats at the Ports' marina?

      And, the Port Director is quoted saying he is only a little disappointed in the continued increase in the vacancy rate.

      That's how you solve problems, right?

  3. Sad for the employees. Have always believed that you have to hit bottom before you can bounce back. Now calls for some real gut wrenching gut checking creative problem solving. It damn sure wont be more of the same. It is time for the cream to rise to the top of the column and problem solving acumen to be appreciated. Don't know where this leadership will arise. Cannot imagine the city council, county commission, EDC, Chamber, or any of the usual suspects having a clue. May have to put the city charger, disincorporate and start over with a new better plan than what we've got. Before shutting out the lights tho we need to disband the EDC, the Port, the chamber and all those assholes who got us into this mess. I see better things but it will be a decade before the creative class takes over and the greed heads are long since forgotten.

    1. I've heard the "things will be better in a decade" chant before. I've lived here for over a decade. Still waiting for that change for the better. Sadly, the town is in worse shape than when I moved here. At this point, I don't wanna hold out for the change, I just want to get out, but can't afford to take a loss on my house. Thanks to the crazy approach to life here, it's worth less than what I paid for it, even though I've poured money into fixing it up. Now I can look forward to paying even more taxes on this anchor around my neck, to fund the pipe dreams of the idiots in charge of ruining this place more. Great.

    2. It's times like this that I'm glad my wife and I live in an RV. Makes moving a shit-ton easier.

  4. Here's a silver lining to the whole mill shutting down scenario.

    I've long suspected that one of the things that enables the PDN to remain profitable, and in business at all, is the fact that they have a paper mill right down the road. Once that neighbor is no longer producing paper, and the PDN has to pay for shipping for those big rolls of paper from further away, their Canadian overseers might start seeing red on the books instead of black, and shut things down.

    The day is coming.

    1. While I don't necessarily disagree with you, I do need to point out that it seems unlikely that Nippon will shut down the rest of the mill before they get the $11+ million dollars waiting for them.

      To recap...As part of the sprawling Elwha dam removal project, the National Park Service set aside over $11 million dollars for Nippon (in an interest-earning account) on the condition that they keep a mill "functioning" until either 2016 or 2017 to collect. (Sorry, I can't recall the exact date.) So long as Nippon spits out a roll of paper here and there before that time, they will be considered "functioning."

      So it makes sense for Nippon to keep the last mill operating, even if it loses money, to get that big payout waiting for them. Then, the money can go to Japan, the mill can be shut down for good, and Port Angeles will have more unemployed people and a full-time power plant on the shoreline.

    2. Actually the first thing their Canadian overseers did was shut down the PDN press and move the whole operation to... Bellevue? Someplace around there. So the PDN is already paying for shipping. Probably why it went up a quarter. The PDN press is now a CrossFit gym, which is a marked improvement.

    3. The PDN isn't printed locally anymore. That changed when it was sold. I don't know if they are still using Nippon paper but I doubt it.

      Nippon needs the paper mill attached to the biomass incinerator in order to call it green energy and sell it to California for a premium. Unfortunately for them the drop in oil prices probably isn't helping them stay profitable. I wouldn't be surprised if they shut the whole thing down when they get that $11 million CK mentioned.

      And I would be thrilled to see them go.

    4. Well, I'm not so sure about the "full time power plant, either". As you saw with the co-gen plant in Port Townsend, the cheap energy proices made that proposal un-economical.

      And, that was with oil a LOT more expensive than it is now. At $63 a barrel and dropping, I doubt the Nippon co-gen plant is profitable. I doubt it was, ever. It likely was just the scam for taxpayer funded subsidies it looked like it was.

      Count up the tens of millions Nippon got, start to finish.

    5. Sell the plant, bottle the (cheap!) water, and ship it out of our port. This is the future for what is currently the Nippon plant. That shiny, new industrial water line wasn't put in for Nippon. It was put in so Nippon could more easily sell the plant after they cash out from the ONP deal. Dirty deals done for clean water. For profit.

    6. Correction;
      The future of the Nippon plant is soon to be announced as the new Elwha Casino, Hotel/Convention and City Events Center.
      Just follow the flashing lights and giant video screens along the newly renovated Port Angeles/Salish Sea Waterfront Promenade!
      Don't forget your purses and wallets, and remember all retirement, S. S. , Welfare checks, cards and coupons cashed at 90% face value.
      Christmas Season Special; Breakfast served all day! Just $1.99 (+ 20% gratuity - to help feed those less fortunate).

  5. The PDN is no longer printed in Poet Angeles. It's printed in Everett at Sound Publishing's plant. The change occurred when Sound Publishing bought the PDN, Sequim Gazette, and Forks Forum. 20 people were laid off when the PA printing plant closed.

  6. who would approve such a deal without some better performance metric than "continue functioning" they could continue functioning by having a janitor constantly sweeping the floors. Gawd, are we giving away the store again?

  7. So glad Steve Tharinger helped push through those tax breaks for Nippon, to help keep the mill open and working!


  8. I assume this sudden cutback has been planned since Harold was still here - which may be one reason why Harold is no longer here. It gets harder and harder to throw your weight around, even in a small town like this, when you're shrinking, shrinking, shrinking. Still, let's watch the city council and city staff scramble to respond. Maybe they can have a joint emergency meeting with Nippon and Kenmore, as they beg for them to come back, come back...

  9. This is the kind of good news that puts the liberal/progressive crowd in a bit of a bind.

    While I 100% support the idea of there being no more mills in this town, I recognize that right now there's nothing job-wise to take their place. It's not like this has become some sort of eco-utopia with tourists and investors flooding in. Not even close, of course.

    So, really, all we get from this is a little less pollution (maybe) and a whole lot more unemployed people (certainly) without having any sort of identity or infrastructure in place to fill the void left when these mills close down. That means our default identity is being yet another dying mill town. Part of the problem is that our local elected leaders seem to be fine with that identity.

    1. When are we going to learn that outside "industry" will always create exactly the same dynamic you point out? That we are ALWAYS going to be victim and prey to the whims and cycles beyond our control?

      How can a community be stable, and have any kind of economic predictability and security, when all vital decisions are made with outside considerations a priority?

      Who can commit to a mortgage or car payment, when they don't know when that outside based industry will close down, and they're out of a job?

      Can we do better, or are we just going to plead and beg for some other outside industry to come into town, and we can repeat the process.

      As if that is even a choice. After Harbor Works, and the long list of other proposals that promised to revitalize Port Angeles, maybe we should get a clue.

      Maybe we should also see that the supposed leadership we have IS sitting back, waiting for some outside something to save us. They sure are not doing anything to develop locally based industries.

      Time to recognize the problem, and deal with it head on.

    2. Industry, predatory - what's the difference? So long as members of the City Council can say there might be jobs connected with the latest hare-brained scheme, they are happy. As in, happy to let the town go to hell in reality.

  10. Biomass is not the cash cow that Nippon obviously once thought it would be. With oil prices plunging, who cares about renewables, right? The mill is doomed, and I'd bet that the biomass plant is not far behind that. I'd be surprised if Nippon wasn't shopping the plant around to anyone who might be interested. Lord knows they could promise a potential buyer that the city will bend over backwards and lick their own ass to bring in something - anything - that could be pitched as providing jobs.

    Just like the biomass plant was.

    Oh. Yeah.

    1. With all those tens of millions of taxpayers money being thrown at them, why would Nippon care if the biomass plant ever turned a profit?

      They get the millions, no matter what they do.

  11. $360,000 in utility taxes gone?

    Yeah, it does seem likely that that's gonna cause some problems for us. You bet.

    So glad the city put all their eggs in that one shaky basket!

  12. Next the mill will refuse to pay for cleaning up the decades of pollution it dumped into Port Angeles harbor.
    The Japanese corporate managers have shown that they have no motive other than to squeeze as much from its workers, the city, and the National Park Service as possible. They will continue to bleed all the resources that they can, leaving the community in shambles.
    Look on the bright side. At least there will be less wear and tear on city streets and infrastructure when there are fewer chip trucks belching fumes as they rumble through the downtown.

    1. Good point! And you're undoubtedly right. This foreign corporation has ZERO allegiance to Port Angeles, or anything other than profits.

      Yet, this is the same company that our former mayor, Cherie Kidd, refers to as a "local company." Shows the level of sophistication and understanding among our local leadership, eh?

    2. LOL.
      Cherie Kidd can only be believable as a comic book villain.
      After all, look at her.

      Forks, WA, eat your hearts out!
      Port Angeles, WA has Queen Kidd!
      Leader of the Zombie Hoard!

  13. Start all your construction work without the required permit? Sure! Let the City handle that for you.

    Tax breaks from the state? Sure! Let Steve Tharinger handle that for you.

    Free money and more tax breaks for your foreign-owned, for-profit business venture? Sure! Let's go talk to the Feds about that.

    Maintain the jobs you promised? Pay living wages? Allow your workers to unionize? Naw! Go f*** yourself. This isn't a charity we're running here.

  14. Belly up Port Angeles, time to go into receivership!

  15. So I guess we know one place that Barb Frederick won't be applying for a job.

    On the other hand, I'm guessing there now might be 20 or so more people applying for Barb's old job.

    That's Port Angeles for you. One step forward, and nineteen steps back.

    1. Yes, it's comforting to know that Barb is up for finding a new career, with new challenges. A talented, go-getter like her shouldn't have any trouble at all finding a new position somewhere....

      "Now, would you like fries with that?"

  16. Those of you that make light of this event foolishly underestimate the community impact that will ultimately follow.

    No matter who you choose to blame, both local/regional property owners/investors, their renters/lessors, and ALL Port Angeles based young families will suffer, terribly, within the next 12-48 months.
    Probably even longer.

    Laugh while you can, but if you live in or near Port Angeles, this is not an event to celebrate ... there will be no winners.

    Buckle up Buttercup!

    1. I don't know how many of the readers of this forum follow international news, and the global economic issues. If you do, you know things are very shakey right now.

      With the dramatic decline in the price of oil, there are a number of countries whose revenues are largely based on oil, and they are really hurting now. Down goes income, purchasing power, housing prices, trade, etc.China, now the worlds' largest economy, is engaging in printing money to prop up its' economy, just like the US did post 2008.

      And, it is not forecast to get better any time soon.

      12-48 months from now ? Doesn't look good. Yeah, buckle up Buttercup.

  17. It's about time they renegotiated the water bill for Nippon. They consume millions of dollars worth of water and pay only $15,000 annually. The city says this is because they have a pipeline direct from the river--as if that makes any difference. They are still pulling off a limited supply and compete with all the other homeowners and businesses in town. If they once deserved this sweet-heart deal that time has passed. They are not your usual corporate citizen that takes an active part in city affairs. They don't even sponsor a little league team. Install a meter. Start charging them a reasonable rate for their water consumption. They are currently selling their "green" electricity to Northern California and leaving us with the smog and pollution it takes to generate it. Plus they are making the forests less able to rejuvenate by removing the ground-cover and slash that usually allows the forest to regenerate itself when left on the ground to decompose and put nutrients back into the soil. Contact your city council and demand equal billing for water.

  18. UPDATE
    In a desperate move to close the Port Angeles Mill, the offshore owners have just announced that they have hired Barb Fredericks and Bob Lumens, both formally with the PA Downtown Association, to permanently close down the Mill.
    In their press release, they said, " Our decision to hire Barb and Bob, is a carefully calculated move to make sure the Mill will never have a chance to start up ever again!. Together, their experience and expertise at screwing things up is unsurpassed! We are confident Barb and Bob will get er done!"