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Proposed structural panel mill requires supply of timber.

Proposed structural panel mill requires supply of timber

As of early March proponents of a new forest-products industry planned for Sault Ste. Marie were awaiting word on a supply of timber from the province.

"I'm hopeful," said Ray Stewart, president of Tri-Forest Corp. "When you know you can have the timber, you can start working on everything else."

Interviewed by telephone from his home in Oliver, B.C., Stewart was expecting word soon from the government.

Natural Resources Minister Bud Wildman had previously been quoted as saying that the wood will be made available.

Tri-Forest is looking for a supply of about one million cubic metres of timber annually. It wants to process wood fibre from the Sault Ste. Marie region into engineered structural panels.

Construction of the first phase of the operation will inject $135 million into the local economy and create 402 direct jobs and 804 indirect jobs. The operation will be capable of producing 350,000 metric tons of structural panel annually.

The first phase of construction was originally set to begin in July, with production to start in two years.

Stewart said the company would like to maintain that schedule, "but you can't do much until you know if you have timber or not."

A second-phase investment of $140 million would create 360 direct jobs and 720 indirect jobs, and would add 175,000 metric tons to the operation's annual structural panel capacity, as well as a medium-density fibreboard production line and secondary panel finishing.

Construction of the second phase would begin in July 1993, with production starting in August 1995.

In total, 2,2865 direct and indirect jobs would be created.

Tri-Forest has a company policy of local hiring, purchasing and involvement. The project is to be financed without government assistance.

"If it requires government assistance, it's not a viable project in the first place," said Stewart, adding that he wants the mill to be viable from the start and to have a long-term future.

"We have sources of financing," he added.

Tri-Forest has been formed as an Ontario corporation based in Sault Ste. Marie. The company brings together industry experts such as Stewart, who has 22 years experience in the forestry industry and a decade in banking.

Tri-Forest would be the first manufacturer to provide the market with panels featuring controlled mechanical and physical properties.

As the panel board market matures and expands, the company expects the demand by designers, engineers, architects and industrial users will increase.

The plant will also be the first to utilize all species of wood in its process. It will provide a market for sawmill and logging residue, while having the capability to provide an additional secure source of quality logs for existing veneer mills and sawmills.

Just about anything can be used in the mill's process, said Stewart, explaining that since the process will break the lumber down to strands, the mill will not need the same quality lumber as required by a sawmill.

All production will be pre-sold to export markets prior to construction of the plant.


Jim Rudack, president of the Sault Ste. Marie Economic Development Corporation, is eager for the project to begin.

"It would mean a hell of a construction project," he said.

Rudack added that Tri-Forest would provide a big export opportunity for the city and that exporting is "the only way for us to go."

In addition, he said Tri-Forest "would be a super morale builder for the city."

Rudack said the main reasons Tri-Forest is interested in locating in Sault Ste. Marie is access to raw materials and to the American highway, Interstate 75.

In addition, the location would allow the company to ship its product by water.

Rudack said his office has investigated several possible sites in the city for the future mill.
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Title Annotation:Focus On Sault Ste. Marie; Tri-Forest Corp. needs timber supply
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Date:Apr 1, 1991
Previous Article:HATS looks to conventions to boost tourism industry.
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