SCOTSBURN – After almost a year of waiting and trying to find ways to fill his day, John MacPherson is happy to say that the lumber mill in Scotsburn is reopening and he’ll be going back to work full time.
Since the mill closed down last December, MacPherson and the approximately 70 other people working there at the time had been waiting to hear what the mill’s fate would be.
“All you can do is just bide your time,” said MacPherson, who serves as unit president for the mill, which is represented by the United Steelworkers. “Guys picked up different odd jobs, but they never got full employment.”
Some did decide they couldn’t wait and took jobs out west, MacPherson said, but he always held out hope that the mill would reopen and has a list of 53 other people who are looking to return as well. He said ever since the mill closed he’s done everything he could to see that it reopened and was happy when he was finally called in for a meeting with Northern Pulp to discuss starting it up again.
One shift of about 25 to 30 people is expected to start late October while a second shift will be added after later, he said. Once everything is up and running again, MacPherson said it should employ about 85 people.
“It’s coming at a good time because everybody’s unemployment is running out and they’re getting anxious,” MacPherson said.
He’s talked to some people who moved out west who have indicated that they’d be interested in coming back as well.
Northern Pulp bought the mill from Ligni Bel Ltd. in August. Bob Bagdon, Northern Pulp’s human resources vice president, confirmed the mill is opening this fall and said they would love to be making lumber by the end of October, although he was reluctant to say for sure that will be the timeline or how many people would be called back.
“We would like to open it as soon as we can, but there’s an orderly process that we need to follow,” he said.
He said they would hope to buy wood from Crown land as well as private woodlots and that the partnership with the Northern Pulp plant on Abercrombie Point and the mill should work well. Chips from the saw operation will be used at Northern Pulp.
“That business complements our business,” Bagdon said. “We’re creating efficiencies.”
There are plenty of others impacted by the mill opening as well, MacPherson said, from the people running saws in the woods, to drivers who truck the logs and businesses that sell the lumber.
Debbie Sangster, owner of Deb’s Hidden Café in Scotsburn, is also excited to hear the mill is reopening.
“It’s definitely going to give us more business,” she said. “We’re the only restaurant in Scotsburn.”
She said they noticed a significant difference in sales when the mill closed last December, but with it reopening she said she’ll be able to hire some more staff.
“All around it’s going to be positive for the community,” she said. “It’s going to bring more money into the town.”
Sangster said her business had done well over the summer, and she had expected sales to drop a bit with winter coming, but she’s sure that won’t be the case now.
“It’ll just be like summer all over again,” she said.