Welco Lumber closes Marysville mill

MARYSVILLE Welco Lumber has closed its Marysville plant indefinitely, and Marysville Mayor Dennis Kendall said it looks like the shut down may be a permanent one.
It was a good-news, bad-news week for Kendall as the city cleaned up in the stakes for a new University of Washington campus but may have lost one of the last legacy businesses dating back to the frontier era.
Welco employed about 60 people making cedar fencing materials but faced a downturn in the business as the housing market has slowed nationally. The parent company has two other mills in Naples, Idaho and Shelton and they will be able to pick up the slack. A company official at the Marysville site would not comment for the record about the plants status.
But Kendall said he had been notified that the shutdown was permanent by the state employment security office, which by law has to be notified by employers when large numbers of workers are laid off. The department forwarded the letter to Marysville. Kendall said he also met with the mill owners, who cited the softening housing market for the closure.
They feel they can keep up with the demand they have with those two mills, Kendall said.
That dark cloud has a silver lining for the city, as Marysville has planned for several years to redevelop the aging downtown core south of Fourth Street. Zoning changes to the citys master plan encourage mixed-use commercial projects that could include retail on ground floors with office space and condominiums and apartments up above.
Welco was the second major mill to shut down recently, as the Interfor plant east of the SR 529 bridge closed last year.
The city quickly bought the 10-acre property and plans to build a consolidated city hall campus on the waterfront parcel eventually; for now the public works department is storing vehicles and equipment on the site.
The mill closure creates opportunities for new urban development in the area, and opens up a strip of waterfront land south of First Street to more lucrative investments. The owners of Geddes Marina west of the railroad tracks say they have been pursued by developers for some time, but most dont want to have an industrial plant next door to an upscale project.
For Kendall the mill closure affords an opportunity to attract new developers with a vision and the checkbooks to improve an area that is not generating much revenue for the city coffers. One eyesore for city planners has been the Marysville Mall, where J.C. Penneys, Office Depot and others are located. The former Royal Fork restaurant has been shuttered at the citys busiest intersection for almost three years but Kendall said the mall management doesnt care because the restaurant owners are still paying on the lease. The rest of the mall is fully-leased and paid-up, Kendall was told when he met with the ownership group in Las Vegas last March.
Combined with a series of vacant storefronts on Third Street, that doesnt help the citys image, particularly when new retail outlets are opening on the Tulalip Indian Reservation and in the Lakewood area. That doesnt sit well with city hall, which wants a mixed-use that would attract high-paying professional tenants and retail activity that would generate more sales tax, the biggest source of municipal tax revenue.
Community development director Gloria Hirashima points to the Mill Creek Town Center and Redmonds Towne Center projects as the way Marysville would like to go. The upscale shops have revitalized the former rural agricultural towns, and planners have developed zoning changes they hope will attract investors to the neighborhood.

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