Burns Lake’s Klaus Posselt, owner of Tahtsa Timber and long-time forestry entrepreneur, has purchased industrial property in Houston and will be opening a small mill there, possibly by next summer.
The Houston site was formerly a specialty wood operation with several buildings and a bandsaw still in place. Those existing facilities will be supplemented by a sawmill being imported from the U.S., and possibly by relocating an under-utilized building from Burns Lake to Houston.
The new mill will employ up to twelve workers and employ another 24 people in the forest either harvesting or hauling logs.
The Houston mill will be the third mill he owns, adding to the small Burns Lake Mill in the Burns Lake industrial park and the Sheraton Mill near town which he purchased from the Burns Lake Community Forest last year.
The Houston property – something Posselt has had his eye on for 15 years – has significant advantages over other property available to him. Besides appropriate zoning, the Houston property has rail and highway access and most importantly, it has off-highway access.
Off-highway access means larger, heavier loads hauled directly into the yard without highway load restrictions.
The advantages of the Houston site do not mean Posselt’s Burns Lake sawmills will be closed.
“I’ve put significant money into Sheraton, and we still have plans to upgrade the Burns Lake mill,” Posselt said. “We fully intend to keep the Sheraton and Burns Lake mills running. Each mill has its own focus. The Burns Lake mill will do most of the stuff for the oil patch, Sheraton will do over-size product, and the Houston mill will focus on the Chinese market.”
The Chinese market for wood usually means log exports, but Posselt has never been interested in exporting logs.
“Almost every Chinese buyer that comes along wants to export logs,” Posselt said. “On this side of the Coast mountains, there’s not much margin in it. But even if there was some margin, I would want to process the logs here. I’m not interested in exporting logs.”
Posselt’s export operation produces cant – basically a squared log – for shipment. The buyer can complete the milling to whatever dimension desired, or use the cant cuts in industrial and road building operations.
The residual wood that Posselt harvests is good for milling cant thanks to its lighter, dry weight. It doesn’t have the higher market value of green wood, but it has its place.
“For some of the stuff we make, low-grade wood is actually a benefit,” he explained. “It resists twisting and it’s not expensive to transport.”
Focussing on so-called low-grade wood has been Posselt’s niche in the region. The large forest license holders are not interested in salvaging low-grade wood, and much of it would have been burnt in the forest as waste.
“Up to three-quarters of what we run in these mills [Sheraton and Burns Lake] is material the big mills were burning in the bush,” Posselt said. “This is one of the most satisfying things I’ve done in my life, taking something that was going to go to waste or just getting burnt and making something of value.”