Production at Boundary Sawmill in Midway, British Columbia, is at 55%-65% of target, VP of mill operator Vaagen Brothers Lumber tells Premier Christy Clark during guided tour

GRAND FORKS, British Columbia , February 8, 2012 () – B.C.’s Premier Christy Clark dropped by Midway’s mill for a guided tour and a discussion on job creation, especially for smaller cities.

Recent trade agreements with Asia have helped benefit the forestry business, and with it, the small towns with lumber mills like Midway, stated Clark.

“It drives up the demand, it drives up prices, and then we have a business case to produce more lumber than you otherwise would,” she said. “It all starts with a job, and if that job is in Midway, or if that job is in Surrey, it makes a difference for the entire province.”

Clark noted that with a forestry job, it will likely begin in a small town and the ripple effect will be felt across the province.

“Job creation has three elements to it: one, is to get out of the way of economic opportunity, so the government is issuing the permits that are required, and trying to help find the fibre supply because we often get in the way of people trying to become successful rather than trying to help them,” explained Clark.

“Then, there’s building the infrastructure; the roads and the bridges to get it to our ports and to get it to our markets, and then it’s about getting it overseas. When you let free enterprise grow up, they’ll take care of the rest of it.”

After almost a year in the making, the Midway mill has steadily increased its production.

Tim Worrall, who works for a trucking company based out of Christina Lake, hauled the first load of lumber from the Midway Mill on a Super B Truck early January.

“We will be hauling lumber from Midway to Christina Lake, then reloading the lumber on American trucks for shipment to Colville, Wash., where the Vaagen Brothers will be planing the lumber state-side,” explained Worrall.

Russ Vaagen, vice-president of Vaagen Brothers Lumber Inc., stated production is around 55 to 65 per cent of where they would like to be.

“Right now our best shift has been 150,000 feet in about 10 hours, but we’d like to get 200,000 feet a shift,” he said. “We’re averaging around 115 right now.”

There are still equipment issues with logs sticking in the machines, which is what slows down production for an hour or so.

A second shift could be added and would depend on wood supply, but Vaagen noted if all goes well, that might occur by fall.

“We’re probably going to be running one shift or a shift and a half, or maybe some overtime hours prior to running two shifts,” explained Vaagen.

“We would need some confidence before we do that because we don’t want to bring a crew on and then lay them off. We’re going to take this one step at a time and be conservative.”

The first truckload of logs was brought into the Midway Mill yard under Vaagen Fibre Canada from the Son Ranch, north of Greenwood on Aug. 15.

Midway Mayor Randy Kappes recently went on a tour of the mill and noted everything looked great.

“There are piles of logs out there, piles of wood coming out and it’s good to see all the workers working,” stated Kappes.

Also the owner of a local gas station, the mayor has noticed the difference in the business that’s been occurring in the area, including the employment in Midway.

“It brings the stability that we’ve been lacking for the last four years,” explained Kappes. “It’s those steady jobs that allow people to move to the area and depend on, and the steady tax base that the village can go about planning and budgeting with.”

Kappes concluded, “(The mill) has been everything we’ve been hoping for and more.”

Owned by Boundary Sawmills Inc., the mill is leased to Vaagen Brothers Lumber and was formerly owned by Pope & Talbot.

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