Clearwater CEO praises Idaho's legislative climate

LEWISTON TRIBUNEFebruary 19, 2014 

Clearwater Paper’s chief executive spent much of a February address to Nez Perce County Republicans assuring them of the Spokane-based company’s future in Lewiston.

“Lewiston is very important to this company,” President and CEO Linda K. Massman told the crowd at the annual Lincoln Day Dinner at the Red Lion Hotel. “It is the cornerstone of our company. It’s where we began.”

Clearwater made $21 million in capital improvements last year to the Lewiston mill, and $26 million more is scheduled to be spent this year. “I think that gives you a good sense of our commitment to this facility, and the workforce we have here,” she said.

The company’s first female leader spoke favorably of the legislative climate in Idaho, saying cooperation with Idaho’s lawmakers is key to staying competitive in a global marketplace. The predictable regulatory and taxing environment in Idaho helps Clearwater Paper maintain its cost competitiveness and innovation and lets shareholders feel confident that capital the company spends will get the return they expect.

The audience was peppered with the elected officials Massman referred to, including Gov. Butch Otter, Lt. Gov. Brad Little, U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo and U.S. Rep. Raul Labrador. Several local legislators and candidates for statewide office also attended.

Massman said Idahoans are wonderful papermakers. She said the expert technicians at the Lewiston mill often travel to the company’s other sites in the U.S. and Canada to share their skills.

She touted the longevity of employees, who average 17 years of service each. Many have more than 30 years under their belts, and one family had four generations working at the mill at the same time, she said.

Massman spoke of her company’s financial health, including net earnings of $107 million last year that dwarfed the previous year’s $64 million total.

“We got off to a pretty challenging start in 2013, but we had a really fantastic finish,” she said. “The company is strong and healthy as we proceed into 2014.”

Recent investments in barging facilities on the Columbia and Snake rivers will ensure a steady stream of low-cost raw materials for papermaking, she said.

“For us, being a low-cost provider really wins,” she said.

Clearwater had its best safety record ever in 2013, she added, with an incident rate less than half of the industry average.

Company spokesman Matt Van Vleet says Massman’s remarks were part of her effort to be a visible leader. “Linda is very community-focused,” he says.

jmills@lmtribune.com, (208) 848-2266

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