Island forestry company to invest in operations

Western Forest Products will invest $200 million to modernize its sawmill and timberland operations over the next two or three years.

Premier Christy Clark speaks to the $200-million investment announced by Lee Doney

Western Forest Products will invest $200 million to modernize its sawmill and timberland operations over the next two or three years.

But there’s no word yet on whether the company’s Duke Point and downtown Nanaimo sawmills will benefit from this cash infusion.

Lee Doney, vice-chairman of Western’s board of directors, made the announcement Tuesday at the Vancouver Island Economic Alliance’s State of the Island Economic Summit.

Western survived the industry downturn starting in 2008 by managing costs and streamlining business, he said. The company has now had seven straight profitable quarters and reopened four of its sawmills in the last 18 months.

“We will ship three times more lumber from the Nanaimo Port Authority’s Duke Point operation this year than in 2010,” he said, while standing in front of a stack of lumber produced in the company’s Nanaimo and Ladysmith sawmills and destined for China and Japan.

China and Japan have played a large role in Western’s recovery, Doney added.

Western now ships about 25 per cent of its lumber to China, compared with about three per cent six years ago, and the resurgence of demand from Japan supported Western’s decision to re-start its downtown Nanaimo sawmill last year, he said.

Doney said the company will make mill-by-mill decisions in the coming months on how to invest the money. He predicts Western operations will be running at full capacity next year.

The $200 million, which Doney estimates would build three new sawmills, will ensure the mills run faster, more efficiently and make better quality products, while logging operations will get much needed equipment.

Premier Christy Clark, who was in Nanaimo for the announcement prior to speaking at the Vancouver Island Economic Alliance Summit, said Western clearly sees a future for what was called a “sunset industry.”

“You don’t make investments if you don’t have confidence,” she said. “This is all, of course, thanks to China.”

Levi Sampson, president of Harmac Pacific, said any investment in local mills is good for Harmac because it helps ensure the company has access to affordable fibre.

He said Island sawmills are not producing enough fibre to meet Harmac’s needs and the company has had to buy from the Lower Mainland, Interior and even sometimes Washington.

Brian Butler, first vice-president of United Steelworkers local 1-1937, said the union welcomes the investment, but has doubts the money will materialize.

“The only thing that’s materialized is log exports,” he said.

The union believes Western is avoiding paying out millions of dollars in severance pay by starting up the downtown Nanaimo and Duke Point sawmills just weeks before severance pay would have been due to workers.

And both mills are running with “skeleton crews”, added Butler. At Duke Point, he said about 25 workers run the planer two weeks of the month, and starting last month, the sawmill runs the other two weeks with a similar number of staff.

Nanaimo NDP MLA Leonard Krog said while he’s pleased by any investment in the community, it depends on how the money is used.

“Are we putting a new roof on an old house or actually doing something to increase production?” he said.

 

Western by the #’s

u 25 — per cent of the lumber Western manufactures goes to China

u $260 million — has been invested in Western to enhance competitiveness and productivity since 2004

u 60–per cent of Western’s lumber production is shipped off-shore

u 20–per cent increase in lumber production over last year

u 25 –per cent increase in harvest volumes

u $750 million — estimated sales for 2011

u in 2012, Western expects to increase production and harvest volumes by more than 10 per cent from 2011

Just Posted

Homelessness Action Week a call for citizens to see the issue in a new light

Homelessness Action Week Oct. 13-19 includes coffee talk, facility tours, film screening

Nanaimo Clippers thankful after three straight wins on road trip

City’s junior A hockey club wins seventh in a row, trades alternate captain

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Empower court system, RCMP to curb crime

Justice system gives free rides to repeat offenders, says letter writer

Nanaimo Ladysmith school district deciding how best to provide menstrual products for students

Early cost estimates tag $75,000 for product dispensers; trustees seek student consultation

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Section of Island Highway north of Nanaimo isn’t safe

I hope politicians will do something about this issue, says letter writer

B.C.’s rural paramedic program expands, with home support

Advanced care ambulance staff added for six communities

BC Ferries sees steady traffic of post-Thanksgiving weekend travellers

Ferries filling up fast, sailing waits at some terminals

Proposed 76-unit residential development would neighbour north Nanaimo mall

Council approves first and second reading of re-zoning application for 4961 Songbird Pl.

Map on Elections Canada site sends voters to Cedar landfill

Address for polling station correct, but Google Map address differs

Nanaimo software designer creates hunting-themed card game

Duck Buck Moose involves skill, cunning and luck of the draw

Nanaimo-Ladysmith candidates compare, contrast platforms on debate stage

Energy policy, veterans’ affairs and more debated Thursday at Beban Park

City council mulls emergency medical responder training for firefighters

Council directs staff to prepare report on firefighter medical training upgrades

Singh says NDP would form coalition with the Liberals to stop Tories

Singh was in a Liberal-held riding Sunday afternoon in Surrey where he was pressed about his post-election intentions

‘Save the kids!’ Dorian survivor tells the harrowing story of his Canadian wife’s death

Family held a funeral and placed Alishia Liolli’s remains in a niche at a cemetery in Windsor, Ont.

Most Read