Sinclar Group's closure of Winton Global has dealt with 'albatross' says president, mills in Prince George, British Columbia, are up for sale

LOS ANGELES , October 3, 2011 () – Greg Stewart, President of Sinclar Group Forest Products, says the company has dealt with the "albatross" following last week's announcement that Winton Global Lumber is to close permanently.

The lumber and planing mill sites in Prince George, British Columbia, are now up for sale, Opinion 250 reported on Sept. 30. They have been shuttered since June 2008.

Frank Everitt, president of Steelworkers Union local 1-424, said Sinclar's announcement had created mixed emotions, as some employees have moved on with their lives but others were waiting for the mills to reopen. He said the decision would bring finality and some kind of security to Winton Global's employees.

In June, employees demanded that the company make a decision and pay severance if the mills were to remain closed. In its announcement, Sinclar said employees would receive “immediate and full payment of all severance to which they are entitled.”

Winton Global Lumber produced about 300 million board feet of dimension lumber annually at its peak, for markets in Canada, the U.S. and Japan. Its sawmill in Bear Lake and planer operations in Prince George employed about 135 workers.

But Stewart said that when demand for the product started to fall in early 2008 as the U.S. home construction market contracted, it no longer made economic sense to continue running the two mill sites.

Stewart added that it would not be possible to run the mills profitably, even if Winton Global focused on sales to China and India. Stewart said it was a question of economies of scale, as Sinclar is primarily a manufacturer of stud lumber, and Winton was the group's only dimension mill.

Stewart said that companies now coming back and retooling mills for offshore markets have additional dimension capacity that allows them to supplement supply disruptions. But as Sinclar did not have that capacity, it was unable to rely solely on one market such as China.

Stewart said the permanent closure of the mills will not impact the Winton Global Homes Division.

The decision had been difficult, Stewart said, and he thanked Winton Lumber’s employees, which span three generations. "It’s because of their commitment and hard work that we were able to grow and maintain a brand, Winton Lumber, that was recognized throughout the industry and was revered for its quality.”

The primary source of this article is Opinion 250, Prince George, British Columbia, on Sept. 30, 2011.

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