COSMOPOLIS, Wash. (From news reports) -- In an announcement that reverberated throughout the city of Cosmopolis, Cosmo Specialty Fibers Inc. stated that it plans to be fully operational by February. The mill stopped pulp production eight months ago because of reduced demand for its product in the wake of the pandemic.
According to its website, Cosmo has begun recalling some of its approximately 200 employees and hopes to be running at full capacity by February 1, 2021.
"After temporarily suspending operations in May 2020 due to slowing global economies, Cosmo has continued to satisfy strategic customer demand through planned inventory and is now experiencing market conditions which warrant restarting," a statement on the company's website read. "Our customers, many of which supply the global retail clothing sector, have experienced consistent recovery for more than three months, resulting in strong demand for Cosmo lyocell and viscose pulp."
In a statement distributed to employees, Cosmo Specialty Fibers CEO Nicholas Dottino said, "It is with tremendous excitement that I share with you that the Cosmo Board of Directors and The Gores Group has unanimously and enthusiastically approved our reopening as soon as practically possible," Dottino stated. "In general terms, the planning that we have been working on for months now swiftly accelerates. Our intention is to be at a full run rate no later than Monday, Feb. 1, 2021."
The mill has been open on a limited basis and maintained with just a handful of employees for approximately the past month. Now, more Cosmo employees are expected to help fill the mill parking lot as it ramps up its production over the next several weeks.
The news is welcome for Cosi residents and city administration, which is dealing with substantial financial impacts due to the production suspension.
"Around 70% of our (business and occupation) taxes, our utility taxes and just general usage taxes for the city come from the mill," Cosmopolis Mayor Kyle Pauley said. "Without them in operation, it was a major hit to the city as far as income. Because of their closure, we've had to make any kind of cuts we can to the city. ... So having them back in operation is really going to stabilize a lot of things."
According to Pauley, the city was able to keep layoffs minimal, but many city employees were furloughed and/or had their work schedules reduced, affecting city services, such as parks and cemetery upkeep.
Initially, mill managers said they were expecting a 90-day closure, and when it went on longer there was local concern that it might not reopen. Wednesday's announcement put many of those concerns to rest.
"Them opening up is great for a number of reasons," Pauley said. "First and foremost, the 200 some workers that are there are able to get back to work. A lot of these workers are Cosmopolis residents and have been longtime Cosmopolis residents and they've been impacted by the pandemic more than anyone."
Pauley expects that once the mill is fully operational, it will take several months before the financial burdens of the city are relieved.
"I would love to see things come sooner and have us be able to get back into a regular motion and bring some of these services back to our residents a little earlier, but we're not anticipating rebounding immediately," he said.
But Pauley added that with the announcement of the mill's full reopening plans, there is a light at the end of the tunnel for the city and, more importantly, Cosmo employees.
"It's fantastic news for the city and it's just amazing news for the workers that are there," he said. "They are the people that we see at the post office, at the store, at the coffee shop. These are people we live with every day so being able to see the light at the end of the tunnel for them is the key thing."