In what came as a surprise news for many, Foss Maritime has closed its Rainier shipyard. Foss spokesman Loren Skaggs said the shipyard closed July 24, impacting 10 people.
Skaggs said the decision to close the shipyard was part of a thoughtful process. While the company liked being in that market, Skaggs said the closure was based on a business decision, but couldn’t give more details.
The Columbia River shipyard yard was primarily used as a repair yard for the Foss Maritime fleet and also built new tugboats. Just last December, Foss was working to finalize negotiations with a Netherlands-based company to build at least 10 tugboats at the Rainier shipyard.
Rainier Mayor Jerry Cole said the closure is a definite loss for the community.
“Anytime we lose business, it’s a negative impact,” Cole said.
Cole said the company did not give any indication it was planning on closing the site. The long-time mayor said he wished Foss would have reached out to the city to see what could be done to keep the shipyard open.
“We’re not here to try to harm them; we want to help them,” Cole said. “We want to make them prosperous. It only helps the community.”
Cole also said both the Columbia County Economic Team and the state of Oregon had been in contact with Foss about the closure.
Chuck Daughtry, executive director for the economic group, said the company had previously discussed consolidating its operations to Seattle. He said the closure in Rainier is a hard hit in terms of lost jobs. At times, the shipyard employed as many as 40 people and offered a significant number of high-paying positions, he added.
“I’m hopeful we can preserve the industrial site and find another tenant for it,” Daughtry said.
Daughtry said the county, city and other partners will now have to reevaluate Rainier’s A Street railroad project, which includes the Foss shipyard location. Cole said the city had made Foss’ needs a priority for the project.
The county will want to ensure the site is preserved for the next tenant that comes, Daughtry said, adding the area has a wealth of skilled workers and is confident the shipyard site will get a new owner.
“It’s pretty valuable,” Daughtry said. “We have so many talented people in the area, which is a big attraction to industry.”