Bryan Reid, Sr., holds a picture of Harmac Pacific pulp mill. Reid is one of the owners in the company which is playing a significant role in supplying western red cedar pulp to a company that makes medical supplies.(Angie Mindus/Williams Lake Tribune)

Bryan Reid, Sr., holds a picture of Harmac Pacific pulp mill. Reid is one of the owners in the company which is playing a significant role in supplying western red cedar pulp to a company that makes medical supplies.(Angie Mindus/Williams Lake Tribune)

‘It’s job No. 1 right now’: Harmac Pacific providing pulp for critical medical supplies

Company director says Harmac received a call of thanks from federal minister Chrystia Freeland

The owners and employees of Harmac Pacific in Nanaimo are playing a critical role in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic with its special western red cedar pulp used to produce medical supplies.

“If you see a blue gown in a health facility, it came from us,” said Bryan Reid, Sr., of Williams Lake, who is one of the owners of Harmac.

“Our production right now at Harmac is around the clock, 24 hours a day, 300-plus workers … I think [the employees] are proud of what they’re doing. I know I’m proud of what they’re doing.”

Reid isn’t the only one to recognize the significance of the company’s efforts. Earlier this week, Harmac’s president Levi Sampson took a call of thanks from Chrystia Freeland, Canada’s deputy prime minister and minister of intergovernmental affairs.

“She was impressed,” Reid said of the call from Freeland, adding that the minister expressed gratitude for the work which helps supply product for all of North America. “That is quite an acknowledgment.”

Reid said Harmac Pacific received a request two weeks ago to double their order of pulp from the company that uses their special recipe to make medical-grade masks and garments. He said they are expecting another call any day to triple it.

“There are people at the mill, employees that are concerned about their mom and dad (and not able to see them because of COVID-19) … but everybody is staying there to produce this pulp,” Reid said from his Pioneer Log Homes office in Williams Lake on Monday. “It’s job No. 1 right now. It’s the most important job in the world to us to produce this product so the end user can get these masks and gowns.”

READ ALSO: Nanaimo’s Harmac mill works to fill doubled pulp order for medical masks and gowns

READ ALSO: Canada to spend $2B more on procuring medical supplies for COVID-19 fight

The historic Harmac Pacific pulp mill was built by H.R. MacMillan in 1951.

Facing closure in 2008, the company was saved by a group of private Canadian investors for $30 million which included Reid, his brothers André and David, son Bryan Jr., Reid’s cousins Frank and Mike of FMI, and a handful of other investors such as Harmac president Levi Sampson and his father, Ed Sampson. As well, the deal saw mill employees buy a significant share of the company to secure everybody’s future.

“It was a very big decision for them, and it was a very, very big decision for us,” Reid said of the purchase.

“After we met some of the employees over the months (in 2008), you know they seemed just like Pioneer people. They wanted to work. They wanted to do what they do best. Make pulp, run a mill. It’s been very satisfying too because it keeps 300 people working. Not off shore, but right here in North America. The only people looking at it (to buy in 2008) were going to part it out and take it to Asia.”

The Harmac mill produces high-quality kraft pulps made from custom blends of Douglas fir, western hemlock, balsam fir, interior SPF and western red cedar. The pulp is sold in Asia, Europe, North America and Australia.

The pulp being used for the medical garments is solely made of western red cedar sourced from Alaska, B.C., Washington state and Oregon, identifiable with its long fibres.

Located on a deep water port in Nanaimo, the mill is well-suited for cost-effective export of pulp and receipt of raw materials such as the wood fibre.

When asked if he ever would have thought Harmac Pacific would play a critical role in fighting a global pandemic, Reid said, no, not a pandemic, but yes in terms of manufacturing.

“We’ve imagined that we would play a role in keeping manufacturing in North America, but I think now is when it counts. [When we considered buying Harmac] we didn’t want the jobs to go to Asia. We wanted them to stay right here in B.C. You know, those are good paying jobs. Those are jobs where people can buy a new car, send their kids to college … it’s some of the highest-paid tradesmen in British Columbia,” Reid said, noting the COVID-19 pandemic is an example of why countries such as Canada and the U.S. have to keep their manufacturing at home.

“I think it’s going to teach us all what we did at Harmac, to try and keep some manufacturing in North America and when it becomes a crisis you know you can only count on your own backyard. What are we going to wait for a ship to come from China with our Tylenol? I mean, that’s terrible. What if they don’t get out of port or what if they all get a disease .. it’s too fragile. The supply chain is too fragile. We have to keep it here and keep these good-paying jobs. It’s a hard way to learn it but it is the way it is…

READ ALSO: Pioneer Log Homes Cedar Rocket rolls onto auction block

“If you want to buy knick-knacks from China that’s fine, but the nuts and bolts of life, we better keep it here.”

Reid, who is also recognized from his time on the HGTV show Timber Kings, is one of six who sits on the board of directors for Harmac, guiding them through business decisions. The COVID-19 pandemic is like nothing we’ve ever seen in our lifetimes, he said.

“History is being written as we speak,” Reid said. “We’re writing the manual.”

Reid also stressed how proud he is of the staff at Harmac “from the janitors to the tradesmen, to the management — the whole group.”


Do you have a comment about this story? email:
editor@wltribune.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Coronavirusforestry

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Chris Sholberg, City of Nanaimo culture and heritage planner, left, presents a first-place award to Kevin Brandt for his restoration of his home’s exterior to its original state. Brandt is the first recipient of the Heritage House Renovation Awards, created by Nanaimo Community Archives to recognize renovation projects taken on in 2020 during the pandemic. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Nanaimo hands out its first heritage house renovation award

Awards created to recognize heritage renovation projects taken on during the pandemic

A rendering of the Lumina building proposed for 41-45 Haliburton St. in Nanaimo. (Matthew T. Hansen Architect image)
Next project proposed as part of a series of buildings on Nanaimo’s Haliburton Street

Five-storey building near Finlayson Street will include 38 residential units

Capt. Bryun Ashlie, left, and Lieut. Stu Kenning, of Nanaimo Fire Rescue, tackle fires burning in two shopping carts in St. George Ravine Park, Thursday afternoon. The cause of the fire, which destroyed both carts and their contents, is undetermined. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Shopping carts found burning in Nanaimo park

Firefighters douse flaming carts and contents on asphalt pathway

Nanaimo RCMP are looking for a motorcyclist who refused to stop for police near the Nanaimo River Road and White Rapids Road intersection on April 10. (Photo submitted)
Nanaimo RCMP seek ‘stunting’ motorcyclist, who fled from police

Rider spotted near intersection of Nanaimo River Road and White Rapids Road April 10

Nanaimo RCMP say a man was injured while pouring gunpowder on a backyard fire in Harewood on Wednesday, April 21. (File photo)
Nanaimo man hospitalized after pouring gunpowder onto backyard fire

RCMP investigating explosion in Harewood also came across a still for making alcohol on the property

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and United States President Joe Biden smile as they say farewell following a virtual joint statement in Ottawa, Tuesday, February 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau pledges to cut emissions by 40% to 45% by 2030, short of U.S. goal

Trudeau announced target during a virtual climate summit convened by U.S. President Joe Biden

Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth speaks to media at the Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Monday February 5, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. officials to announce travel restrictions today to limit COVID-19 spread

Mike Farnworth is expected to give details of what the government views as essential travel

A downed power line has sparked a brush fire along Yellow Point Road south of Nanaimo. (Cole Schisler/Black Press)
Vancouver Islanders warned of fire risk caused by dry conditions

As dry spell poised to end, officials warn of risks involved with backyard burning

Richard Desautel with supporters outside the courthouse in Nelson, B.C., in 2016. Photo: Bill Metcalfe
UPDATED: Sinixt, First Nation bordering Canada-U.S., can claim Indigenous rights, top court rules

The decision essentially reverses a 1956 declaration the Sinixt were extinct

MLA Shirley Bond, right, answers questions during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on February 19, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Former B.C. gaming minister says she wasn’t told directly about dirty cash flowing to casinos

Shirley Bond said Thursday civil forfeiture, gang violence and gambling addiction were also major concerns in 2011

RCMP Constable Etsell speaks to tourists leaving the area at a police roadblock on Westside Road south of Fintry, B.C., Thursday, July 23, 2009. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Yvonne Berg
B.C. police say they take ‘exception’ to conducting roadblocks limiting travel

Asking the police to enforce roadblocks exposes officers to further risk and possible COVID-19 infections, says federation president Brian Sauve

As part of the province’s strategy to combat the opioid overdose crisis, take-home naloxone kits have been distributed throughout the province. (Courtesy of Gaëlle Nicolussi)
Vancouver Island could be at its worst point of overdose crises yet: medical health officer

Island Health issued overdose advisories for Victoria, various communities in the last two weeks

The conservation service confirmed they do not relocate cougars from settled areas but that euthanasia is not necessarily the fate for an animal in the Fanny Bay area. The hope is that the animal will move on to wild areas. (File photo)
Woman hopes cat-stalking Fanny Bay cougar can avoid euthanization

Conservation officers do not relocate the animals from Vancouver Island

Tofino residents expressed frustration over a recent post by Long Beach Lodge owner Tim Hackett that falsely claimed all residents have been vaccinated. (Westerly file photo)
Resort owner apologizes for suggesting Tofino is safe to travel to

Long Beach Lodge owner Tim Hackett apologizes to community and visitors

Most Read