Harmac reopening can serve as a model

Robert Barron, Daily News
Friday, November 07, 2008

Congratulations were the order of the day at Nanaimo's Harmac pulp mill on Thursday afternoon.

Despite the rainy weather, hundreds of workers, management, families and dignitaries who gathered for the mill's grand reopening ceremonies wore sunny smiles.

Forest Minister Pat Bell was joined by Nanaimo MLAs Leonard Krog and Ron Cantelon, Nanaimo Mayor Gary Korpan, Nanaimo-Cowichan MP Jean Crowder and others at the event signifying the mill's rebirth after it shut down last May

Surrounded by stacks of processed pulp that's awaiting shipment, general manager Paul Sadler told the assembled crowd that Harmac has reached "a very important milestone" in its more than 60 years producing pulp in southern Nanaimo.

"Harmac is not only the newest forest products company in the province, it's also quite different from anything before it," he said.

"With its new and unique ownership, it's better, stronger and more creative than other mills. We're in new territory and we're committed to succeed and be stronger than ever."

Harmac actually began production on Oct. 2 after a five-month shutdown when the mill's previous owner, Pope & Talbot, went bankrupt.

After a court process lasting almost two months, Nanaimo Forest Products (consisting of a group of the mill's workers and managers, Williams Lake-based Pioneer Log Homes, the Vancouver-based Sampson Group and Fraser Valley construction company Totzauer Holdings) bought the mill for $13.2 million in August.

Pat Bell said Harmac and its resurrection will "serve as a model" for other forest companies in the province.

"If any business can succeed, it will be Harmac because its owners, workers and managers have learned to work together to overcome difficult challenges," he said before joining workers to cut the ribbon to commemorate the reopening.

"It took tremendous courage for them to do what they did by putting their money, homes and families on the line. There's no better workforce than those engaged in their own business and Harmac is a shining example of that."

Sadler acknowledged that the international credit crisis, combined with the softening of demand for pulp in global markets, are problematic for the mill.

"It's certainly a concern for all of us and we're watching the situation closely, but we've accomplished great improvements in our cost structures under our new ownership to make us more competitive," he said.

(c) The Daily News (Nanaimo) 2008