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Mill CEO: ‘Business would be of interest to multiple parties’

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Steve Klinger, CEO of Crown Packaging Group, which owns the Port Townsend Paper Corp., said that since its purchase of the business in 2015, Crown has made such progress in making improvements to the mill, at an estimated cost of $90 million, that “the business would be of interest to multiple parties.”

Through spokesperson Alan Ulman, Klinger did not confirm or deny that the mill is for sale, but did provide The Leader with a statement that mirrored quotes in RISI, a publication that follows the pulp and paper industry. RISI reported in November that Crown Paper Group was “said to be looking for potential sale” of its holdings on the West Coast through a broker.

The mill has been Jefferson County’s largest private employer since 1928 and currently employs about 300 people.

Crown was formed in 2015 to acquire Port Townsend Paper, Crown Packaging and Boxmaster. It later purchased Montebello Container.

In the written statement from Ulman, Klinger said that Crown’s executive team has been working in the paper and packaging industry for 25 years and that since 2015, “we have acquired and transformed our mill and five converting plants into [a] leading independent West Coast container board and packaging system.”

“The progress has been comprehensive and rapid, and as such, the business would be of interest to multiple parties,” the RISI story quotes Klinger as saying. The written statement to The Leader uses that exact statement.

“While we understand and appreciate this, we are focused on running the business, and not commenting on any speculation,” Klinger said in the statement sent to The Leader.

The statement also included glowing comments about Crown’s success in the past few years.

“We integrated the mill and plants, and transformed them into high-performance, high-efficiency and high-productivity operations. We upgraded talent at multiple levels. We shifted revenue to higher margin products, accelerated sales and improved profitability,” Klinger said in the statement.

“We recapitalized the operations, and improved their environmental footprint,” the statement said. “In summary, in a relatively short period of time, we have built a business that our customers value and positioned it for long-term success.”

PAST STATEMENTS

Since buying Port Townsend Paper Corp., Crown Paper Group executives estimated they have made $90 million in improvements.

“In addition, we are evaluating multiple potential major upgrades for the next several years. We are committed to continually improving this mill and building its long-term value.”

Earlier this year, Klinger said that two of the projects that have put the aging paper plant in a good position for the future include the completion of the boiler maximum achievable controlled technology (MACT) compliance project, and the mill’s conversion to using compressed natural gas (CNG).

It cost the mill $3.1 million to make the conversion in the fall of 2016, mill officials said.

The mill became the first large manufacturer in the state to switch from oil to CNG.

The CNG conversion should reduce the business’s greenhouse gas emission levels by 25 percent and save on fuel costs over time. The mill requires about five truckloads of CNG a day. Each truck holds about 355 million standard cubic feet of gas.

NOISE MUFFLED

In the meantime, mill manager Michael Craft announced Dec. 5 that an effort to eliminate a high-pitched noise at the mill – created after improvements were made to Paper Machine No. 2 – have been successful.

“PTPC has completed the installation of the silencer on the new equipment, which was installed during the mill’s annual outage,” Craft said. “I want to thank the community for their patience during this process.”

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