United Steelworkers staff representative Herb Daniher says mill purchase is a positive event.
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The purchase of the idled Terrace Bay pulp mill can only be described as monumental says a union official.
“This is a very, very positive event and I think the excitement, we haven’t seen it here in some time, especially in the forestry sector,” said Herb Daniher, United Steelworkers staff representative.
“Reopening a pulp mill? It doesn’t happen very often. This is really great news for the community, our members and the region at large,” he added.
Thursday the province announced the mill in Terrace Bay has been purchased by the India-based Birla Group, which is set to invest $250 million to convert the mill to produce rayon fibre.
The Birla Group has plants all over the world and Daniher said the fact that they are already in the market gives the union confidence this deal will provide sustainable work at the mill for its members.
“They can utilize all of the product that’s going to be produced at this particular facility internally. Then they’re not subject to the market fluctuations and that’s huge,” Daniher said, noting he thinks where the former Terrace Bay Pulp company faltered.
“They didn’t have the capacity to ride out the marketplace,” he said.
Daniher said the union will begin bargaining with the employer next week and expect to have a memorandum of agreement by the end of the week.
“The expectation is they are a leader in the industry. They have certain expectations. They are going to make a substantial investment into the mill, into the region, into the community,” Daniher said.
“We as employees have to do our part and be responsible in this as well, which we will be. It’s going to be a state-of-the-art mill. It’s going to be a high-capacity facility and I think good things are going to come from it,” he added.
Through the CCAA creditor protection process, a few companies had been shortlisted to purchase the mill and the Steelworkers union did know the Birla Group was in the running, but they didn’t know anything was finalized until Thursday’s announcement.
And with rumours circling Terrace Bay for months, Daniher said most people are breathing a sigh of relief.
The North Shore business community is also excited by news of the sale, said Jason Nesbitt, president of the Aguasabon Chamber of Commerce.
“It’s a well-needed shot in the arm, not only for Terrace Bay, but obviously the whole region,” he said, adding a lot of area businesses have been struggling the past few years.
“A lot of local, small businesses have been stung a few times with the ups and downs of the mill, going into receivership,” he said.
Nesbitt said hopefully with a company as established as the Birla Group buying the mill, it will put everyone on more solid ground.
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