Midway mill to re-open within six months
The West Boundary Communities have negotiated the purchase of the Midway sawmill from Fox Lumber Sales Inc. The deal, developed over the past few months with the assistance of community leaders, local governments of Midway, Greenwood and regional district area E, is targeted to close in November and the anticipated mill re-opening will be within six months.
Federal Conservative party candidate Stephen Hill worked with the communities to get the project together. “Today we’re announcing that the Midway mill, after three years of closure will be opening within six months to a year, and producing finished goods and selling those finished goods around the world. The leadership of this community has been absolutely fantastic,” said Hill. Mayor Randy Kappes spoke on behalf of the group of local government leaders to announce the purchase on Monday, Oct. 4. “For the last three years this area has struggled with the loss of our largest economic engine. The former Pope and Talbot site employed over 150 people and the resulting spinoffs touched every one of us to one degree or another. Its loss forced families to lose one parent to out of area work, or to pull up roots entirely and move,” said Kappes. “It was this situation and realization that we cannot wait around for someone to come and save us that sparked this inspired collaboration.” Kappes explained that the process started as a grassroots initiative in May of this year. Community residents approached council with a plan to purchase and reopen the mill. Some of the residents who were key in getting the project started are Doug McMynn, Reed Hudland, Bob Hatton, Eric Freeman, George DeLisle along with Stephen Hill, candidate for the federal Conservative party. The group met with the local government representatives to get them on board and then approached the Minister of Forests Pat Bell and MLA John Slater to discuss opportunities. Discussions with the province have also included the identification of a wood supply for a community forest, Kappes said. While the elected officials worked on the community forest, the mill working group entered negotiations with Fox Lumber. The agreement to purchase the mill site was successfully negotiated on Sept. 27. Kappes explained that the regional area governments, Midway, Greenwood and area E, have contributed $260,000 to the purchase. According to Hill there is no federal or provincial funding involved in the project. Hill doesn’t believe that the mill will compete with the International Forest Products Ltd. (Interfor) site in Grand Forks, and anticipates that they could actually share resources. “We can’t wait to become good corporate partners with Interfor,” said Hill. “This mill is going to be a small wood mill. It will specialize in off-species and non-core wood species. With Interfor and working in collaboration we trade logs and provide them with the high quality logs that they’re looking for and we hope to be good corporate neighbours with our friends in Grand Forks.” Interfor’s Vice-President and Chief Forester Ric Slaco said that they will be looking at the details of the proposal with regards to how it will affect their operations in the area and could not comment further at this time. The Village of Midway will lease out the actual operation of the mill. Discussions have started with some local operators to take on the lease and run the mill. Once the lease is set there will be a further announcement. Sales of the finished products into the United States will be through a continued relationship with Fox Lumber, current owners of the mill property. The property had gone through a tax sale process recently as Fox Lumber has been delinquent for three years. The total owed to the Village of Midway for taxes is just under $500,000. While the community forest is a separate project from the mill purchase, Hill said that there is a strong commitment from the province with the support of MLA John Slater to proceed with identifying the wood supply to make the forest possible. The group has also included discussions with the Osoyoos Indian Band to collaborate on wood supply that they are in control of throughout the area. Hill also said that the Heritage Credit Union has made funding available to support the mill purchase. There will be meetings held over the next week to provide more information to the communities about funding and ownership opportunities. The meetings will be: Midway Tuesday, Oct. 12 at the community hall; Rock Creek Wednesday, Oct. 13 at the fairgrounds pavilion; and Greenwood Thursday, Oct. 14 at McArthur Centre – all session start at 7:00 p.m.