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In Progress: Industry Options Developing In St. Helens

In Progress: Industry Options Developing In St. Helens

The City of St. Helens is working to reignite industry in the properties vacated when Cascades Tissue Group ceased operations last year.

At a recent St. Helens City Council meeting on Feb. 21, Ron Houghtelling and Craig Allen discussed the possibility of “restarting” and “restructuring” the paper mill. Former employees of the Cascades mill attended the meeting. Houghtelling said he aims to get industry jobs for workers affected by Cascades leaving.

“We wanted to show you guys that the community supports bringing that mill back online, and being able to bring these guys their jobs back,” Houghtelling told the council. “A lot of these guys are multigenerational on that site like I am, so we would like you to help us to push this project forward and bring these jobs back to this town. We’re ready to go to work.”

Allen addressed the council following Houghtelling’s statements and said one of the biggest barriers to the project is ensuring there is adequate power to get the mill back online. However, Allen echoed Houghtelling’s statements regarding the viability of the mill site to provide industry and jobs in St. Helens.

“It is a viable mill. It’s a shame that it’s in the condition that it is today, it’s a shame that it shut down. Ron wasn’t wrong when he said the mill has 100 years of life left in it,” Allen said. “It’s nice to see everybody come out and support the community like this, and support the types of jobs they want to see in the community.”

In an interview with the Chronicle & Chief, City Administrator John Walsh said the city has received multiple inquiries from companies interested in restarting the paper mill, as well as other uses “such as purchasing spare parts and equipment, demolition, warehouse space, etc.” In the separation agreement between Cascades Tissue Group and the city, Cascades agreed to leave the paper machines and most of the related parts and equipment on-site and intact.

Houghtelling and Allen’s proposal is being called Project Arcadia, and Walsh said their proposed use of the paper machines at the mill site would not interfere with “Project Sprint,” which is the city’s exploration of bringing a large-scale solar manufacturing company to the business park. Walsh could not offer details on the scope of Project Arcadia at this time.

Walsh said the city has been “working diligently” to provide Hyperion Solar with all the necessary business planning information. The city hopes that a definitive decision will be reached by Mar. 31.

Regarding the issue of power needed to support the industry projects, Walsh said it is not unique to St. Helens and that there is a regional and statewide need for more power to support industry and development.

“City of St. Helens staff have been working diligently with PGE, Columbia River PUD, the State of Oregon, Business Oregon, Columbia County, and other organizations to tackle this opportunity as soon as possible,” Walsh said. “Bringing substantial upgrades to the power grid in our area will benefit everyone in our region for decades to come. It will support the growth of large and small industry and commercial projects in our area.”

The prospect of Hyperion Solar and Project Arcadia operating at the business park would have “numerous benefits,” according to Walsh. One of the largest benefits is that it would “return and grow living wage jobs” for the community.

“It will also increase the tax base, benefitting numerous agencies, including the School District, Columbia River Fire & Rescue, the City of St. Helens, and Columbia County,” Walsh said. “It would create anchor industries that help attract other smaller industry and commercial businesses to our area. It would redefine the future of St. Helens.”

Follow this developing story at and in the Wednesday print editions of The Columbia County Chronicle & Chief.

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