A struggling economy in the United States is to blame for the struggles of the local mill, said plant manager Shawn Trottier.
“We’re a company that distributes most of our products primarily to the United States – building products – and the economy down there isn’t supporting housing starts at a level required to consume the material we produce,” he said, “so unfortunately we’ve had to re-evaluate our situation, at least temporarily, and come up with a different strategy to ensure the long-term survival of this mill.”
He added the layoffs at the mill don’t include the impacts to the mill’s logging partners, and to other vendors.
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The mill will retain about 26 of its 114 employees to continue to manufacture its TechShield Radiant Barrier Sheathing, which Trottier explained is a product used in the construction of new homes that reflects solar radiation away from the home, and is used in warm climates such as in California and Arizona. He said the Dawson Creek mill will receive “blanks” from the Peace Valley joint-venture mill near Fort St. John, and the product will be finished at the local mill.
However, he said despite the continued success of that niche product, it only represents a fraction of the mill’s overall production and is not enough to keep the press running full time.
“In a month we might be able to – during this current curtailment – process and ship two to three million square feet of TechShield, and that’s basically a day or two days production off our main press,” he said.
Trottier said there is no indication of a turnaround in the U.S. housing market in the very near future, but he said their approach is to maintain equipment and a level of activity so that if production levels return, the plant will be ready.
“We have told our employees that we are structuring this curtailment with the intention that Dawson Creek is going to return to full-press production in the future.”
He added the company as a whole is pursuing opportunities in other markets, but given the specialized products the local mill produces, overseas markets have yet to be developed for those specific products.
Trottier wished to note that the curtailment is in no way a reflection of the productivity of the mill’s employees, many of whom have worked there for decades.
“They’ve done a fantastic job, and we’ve endured some pretty adverse economic conditions over the last three years and forced into a production schedule that was up and down at best. It’s a challenge that the folks here in Dawson Creek met very well, but unfortunately the market conditions just aren’t going to support continuation that at this time, but we will be back in the future.”