Harmac president encouraging Nanaimo Forest Products directors to pay dividends for first time to investors and workers, citing reduced costs and increased production, unsure of potential amount

NANAIMO, British Columbia , October 20, 2011 () – Workers and other investors who ponied up $25,000 several years ago to keep food on their tables are, if Harmac Pacific president Levi Sampson has his way, going to be sharing in a little gravy.

Sampson said he's encouraging directors of Nanaimo Forest Products to pay dividends to investors in the company for the first time in the coming months.

"Our costs are way down and our production is way up and I believe it's time we paid dividends to the workers and other investors saw some return on their confidence in the company."

During her speech to the Vancouver Island Economic Alliance Tuesday, B.C. Premier Christy Clark praised the worker-employer partnership that Harmac has become since 2008.

"Three years ago Harmac was broke and hundreds of men and women were laid off," Clark said. "Now look at it. It pays the city $3 million in taxes."

Prior to workers' partnership with management, Clark said workers wouldn't do certain tasks saying "it's not my job."

But now because everyone has a stake in the future of the company, everyone is willing to pitch in to do anything that is necessary, she said.

Sampson said that attitude is literally paying dividends.

"We continue to have record production days," Sampson said, again citing the reduced costs and increase in production.

Harmac has remained profit-able even through the rise in the Canadian dollar, Sampson said.

He said he's surprised that despite investing millions of dollars into upgrading Harmac, the company is in a position to pay dividends to investors at this time.

"You can never really put a time line on it, but I can say we are ahead of my expectations.," he said. "I personally didn't see us being able to do this for a few years but we've still got to get the go-ahead from the board of directors."

Sampson said he had no idea what the dividend payments would be if the board of directors agrees to reward investors in the company.

"I'm hopeful we can give our investors a fair first return as well as have enough profit left to re-open a third line of production."

Arnold Bercov, president of local 8 of the Pulp and Paper Workers of Canada, and one of the many concerned people who fought to keep Harmac running, said he's happy that Nanaimo workers and other investors may soon a return on their investment.

"But as far as we, the union, is concerned, keeping those highpaying jobs in the community has been our top priority.

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