EVERETT, Wash. – The Kimberly-Clark paper mill, an institution along the Everett waterfront since the 1930s, officially closed its doors Sunday with the final shift of workers walking away from the plant at noon.
The closure followed an up-and-down year, filled with hopes the company had found a buyer to save the plant, then a surprising December announcement that the mill would close. In all, the closure directly affects about 750 employees, union officials said.
Josh Estes, a 9-year employee and union president, was among the first round of layoffs, losing his job in late December.
“It’s a learning experience,” he said. “You have to learn how to budget and do the things we took for granted for so many years.”
But Estes is looking at the bright side. A federal program is giving Kimberly-Clark employees some financial help, including assistance with health insurance and unemployment benefits. The program also gives employees some money so they can go back to school.
Estes, who is married with a 3-year-old daughter, is now studying energy management at Edmonds Community College.
“It’s hopefully some new steps and new stages to move forward with a new career path,” he said.
Jon Schmuck, a 23-year employee, considered going back to school but ended up getting a job at Boeing in Everett.
“Boeing came through for me, which was fantastic,” Schmuck said. “For me, it was a huge relief.”
About 65 to 70 Kimberly-Clark employees have made the switch to Boeing, Schmuck said. He hopes the hundreds of other Kimberly-Clark employees can also land on their feet.
“One person at a time, one success story at a time,” he said.
The federal government announced last week that it approved $1.79 million in emergency assistance for 570 Kimberly-Clark workers in Everett to help them find new jobs. At this point, it’s unclear exactly how the money will be used, but local officials said the money will be put to good use.