No date for Harbor Paper restart

The company that owns Harbor Paper officially issued a statement this week on the mill’s closure. Elliot Rust Holdings LLC said the restart of the mill, originally planned for this week after management changes and facility maintenance, has been delayed indefinitely.

“Over the course of the last several weeks, we have been working diligently to identify a strategy that will provide for the long-term success of Harbor Paper. Our priority is for Harbor Paper to provide secure employment and economic opportunity for families in the city of Hoquiam and the county of Grays Harbor. We have delayed the planned restart of production operations at the mill as we continue to secure the best strategic solution for the mill. We are grateful for the commitment of our employees and support of our business partners during this challenging time,” the statement read.

The mill abruptly closed Feb. 25 as the company announced management changes. Former president John Begley was replaced by Joe Scolari, son of Elliot Rust’s primary investor, Cesar Scolari. The company announced in early March it planned to re-open this week after regular maintenance was completed.

About 180 people work at the mill.

The mill was rescued by local investors several years ago after it was shut down by a partnership of ITT Rayonier and International Paper. The local investors, led mostly by Bill Quigg of Hoquiam, struggled for years to keep the mill going and finally closed it in May of 2011. At one time, Begley managed the mill, then known as Grays Harbor Paper.

It was Begley that reportedly got Scolari interested in investing in the mill and developed the business plan.

In April of last year they announced their intention to purchase the mill, which was then in the hands of a receiver. The sale was approved and production started in September.

In a statement explaining the shutdown in February, the company expressed hope for the mill.

“In light of the recent circumstances regarding operations, Harbor Paper’s board has made the difficult decision of making a wholesale management change regarding operations at the mill. During this transition time, the mill will be temporarily curtailing its operations. Harbor Paper hopes these changes will improve viability of the mill as a long-term enterprise.”