Kimberly-Clark Property Purchase a ‘Historic Moment’ for the Valley

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – A proposed manufacturing plant by global consumer products giant Kimberly-Clark Corp. could change the face of the Mahoning Valley, local officials predict.

The Western Reserve Port Authority approved the sale of 560 acres of the former BDM Steel property in Trumbull County to Kimberly-Clark during an emergency meeting late Thursday. The property, which was sold to the company for $9,935,300, represents just over half of the 1,000 acres of industrial property, which touches five Trumbull County political subdivisions. 

The Dallas-based manufacturer’s brands include Kleenex, Scott, Huggies, Kotex and Cottonelle. For the 12 months ended Sept. 30, it recorded revenue of $20.42 billion, said Anthony Trevena, WRPA executive director. 

“This is a historic moment, quite honestly, for the Mahoning Valley,” said Martin Loney, chairman of the WRPA board of directors.

The plant would be Kimberly-Clark’s first in Ohio. “They would like to plant their foot in Ohio in the Mahoning Valley right in the city of Warren,” Trevena said.

“We are so fortunate to be sitting in the position that we are in right now, to be able to move this forward and, quite honestly, be able to change the face of the Valley,” he continued. “You don’t have a chance to bring a Fortune 200 company in every other day.” 

Details are sparse on Kimberly-Clark’s plans for the property, including what product or products might be manufactured at the plant, projected job creation numbers or even a construction timeline.

A brief news release from the company stated that its development and project plans were being finalized, and approval by its board of directors in 2024 was being worked on. “We will communicate further updates with our teams and the Western Reserve Port Authority and our local and state government partners at the appropriate time,” the statement concluded.

“It’s been a labor of love over the last year as I’ve gotten to know … the Mahoning Valley area,” said Chuck Smith, Kimberly-Clark director of strategic capital project management and network design for the North American consumer and personal care business. “We are very excited about this opportunity.”  

Mayor Doug Franklin, who called into the meeting while traveling, echoed Smith’s sentiments – and those of others participating in the meeting.

“It’s been a labor not only of love but of dedication and the spirit of cooperation,” Franklin said. 

“I’ve never seen this level of hard work and cooperation to bring a project over the finish line,” said Guy Coviello, president/CEO of the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber.

The potential project came to the attention of local officials when representatives of the Regional Chamber responded to a request for information just over a year ago, said Shea MacMillan, vice president of economic development for the chamber. The chamber hosted meetings with company officials and community stakeholders at Brite Energy Innovators in Warren.

Driving factors that led to Kimberly-Clark’s decision include the existing infrastructure on the site, the abundance of available property and its proximity to the Mahoning River, MacMillan said.  

“It’s very similar to sites that they have and they’ve worked with in the past. So it felt like home to them,” he said.

That a company “as old and as successful” as Kimberly-Clark has expressed interest in the Valley above other places in the country “says a lot about us as a community,” Coviello said.

“This is a great collaboration between all of the entities here,” Loney said, citing the chamber, WRPA’s board and staff and Eastgate Regional Council of Governments. “Everybody has jumped in on this, and it’s been a pleasure to be a part of.”

Trevena also listed former U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan among those he thanked. Ryan intervened with one of the oil and gas leaseholders on behalf of the port authority.

“We hit a snag that was really holding us up,” Trevena said. “If it weren’t for him loosening up that friction, probably several months ago, we probably would not have crossed the finish line.”

Coviello declined to speculate on the scope of the potential project. The map below shows the entire site. See the blue line at right for the land Kimberly-Clark purchased.

“It’s way too early for that speculation,” he said. “I just think it bodes well though when you look at the acreage of the property that they hopefully are thinking big, or they wouldn’t be looking at 560 acres. So time will tell on that front – hopefully, not a long time.”

Other WRPA board members joined Loney in hailing the announcement and expressing appreciation for the port authority staff.

“It has been a labor of love. It’s been a long time coming,” Kathleen Kennedy said. “It shows you what’s going to happen when everyone is willing to work together as a region, and that’s really what we’ve done.”

Sterling Williams characterized the announcement as “probably the greatest thing to happen to Warren for a long time.”

Trevena estimated the port authority spent more than $5 million to get the property to the point that it could be sold. This included water monitoring equipment needed to own and operate the property and more than $3 million to acquire oil and gas leases and cap wells. The cost of a one-year insurance policy exceeded $250,000.

In addition to reimbursement of past expenses, proceeds from the sale will go toward cleanup of the contaminated portions of the remaining 440 acres of the site, he said.

Pictured at top: Site photo posted at the Western Reserve Port Authority website.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.