Canfor has ended months of uncertainty about the economic future of Houston by announcing today, Sept. 14, it will spend approximately $200 million to replace a sawmill it said was not equipped to produce the kind of higher-value products needed to withstand downturns in the market.
“We believe we have the plan, the people and the know-how to build a best-in-class facility that showcases B.C. workers, suppliers and technology,” said Canfor president and CEO Don Kayne in making the announcement.
“With this project we will also be building on our long history of strong, collaborative relationships with Indigenous nations in the area as we grow our business partnerships,” Kayne added.
The company is estimating an opening date in 32 months following detailed engineering, permitting, construction and then commissioning.
It will be built on the site of the current mill following demolition of that facility.
Rated production capacity will be 350 million board feet a year, less that the current facility.
Uncertainty grew in Houston and area in late January when Canfor said it was closing the current facility for good in the spring, citing the high cost of fibre and poor markets.
From the start it said it intended to build a new facility but first needed to do an evaluation of the kind of mill it wanted to build and that it needed the cooperation of the provincial government in ensuring there would be enough wood available.
The current facility employed more than 300 people and the uncertainty as to Canfor’s future in Houston sparked an exodus of workers and families.
It is not yet known how many people the new mill will employ.
Provincial forests minister Bruce Ralston called the announcement good news for all concerned.
“There is no question that we are in a period of transition in the forestry sector, and this announcement represents an important step forward. I am pleased to see Canfor, a company with deep roots in the province and strong partnerships with local First Nations, make this investment,” he said.