City of Prince Albert in discussions with investors group to open forestry sector ‘production facility’

A new group of investors have expressed interest in starting a “manufacturing production facility” in Prince Albert’s forestry sector, but further plans about the development won’t come until after the provincial and municipal elections.

Mayor Greg Dionne said the facility will bring more than 750 jobs to Prince Albert, but declined to release more details.

“We are encouraged by the preliminary discussions surrounding the quality of the sustainable forest management with the brand new stakeholders, and look forward to further detailed discussions once the election process is complete,” Dionne said in a statement issued on Thursday.

“We have to be respectful of the election process. Provincial operations are on hold, which is why this is all we can say at this time.”

Dionne leads the negotiating team working on the deal. The team includes city administrators, as well as members of the Prince Albert Regional Economic Development Alliance (PAREDA).

RM of Buckland Reeve and PAREDA member Don Fyrk called the news an exciting development, but said they wouldn’t be sharing more information until the elections are over.

“It will benefit the entire region, and I am looking forward to working with the new company,” Fyrk said. “The RM of Buckland is excited to share more information with the public after the elections are over.”

“Prince Albert has long awaited a manufacturing opportunity that would benefit all and create higher than average paying jobs for the families of Prince Albert and area,” Dionne added. “I look forward to sharing more details in the future.”

The provincial government also declined to reveal more details about the development, but hinted that negotiations are in the works.

Trade and Export Development Minister Jeremy Harrison said the provincial government has definitely receiving interest from businesses in the forestry sector looking to start up in Prince Albert. However, he declined to offer any more information.

“As far as specific companies and specific projects, we generally don’t get into details about where those discussions are at,” Harrison said following a campaign stop with Premier Scott Moe in Prince Albert on Oct. 3.

Harrison said there are a number of different elements that need to be addressed before a deal gets done. That includes discussions with the Ministry of Environment, the Ministry of Energy and Resources, and the Ministry of Trade and Export Development.

“There’s been a lot of discussion at different points about having a project move forward,” Harrison said. “I would say I have a degree of comfort that the appropriate supply of (wood) fiber exists in the province for a number of different companies (to operate).

“These things can take time, and there’s a number of reasons for that, but we’re going to continue to work with companies in advancing projects. We want to see projects happen. We want to see projects be successful.”

Harrison added that the market is there for wood fibre products, driving largely by an increased demand in the U.S. housing market.

Weyerhaeuser closed the Prince Albert mill indefinitely on Jan. 3, 2006 due to poor market conditions. Since then, there has been constant speculation about a re-opening.

Current owner Paper Excellence Canada acquired the mill in 2011. They originally planned to start work on the mill in 2018, with the goal of reopening by 2020. That’s the earliest the B.C.-based company could begin operations thanks to a non-compete clause with previous owners Domtar.

Harrison said he believes Prince Albert will get a mill eventually, but he declined to speculate on when that might happen. “We don’t get into the details about where things are specifically at with specific companies, but I can tell you we’re always talking to companies and our doors are always open,” he said.

Editor’s Note: This article appeared on page one of the Friday, Oct. 9 edition of the Daily Herald under the headline ‘New project to open at paper mill will create 750 jobs, officials say’. The headline was inaccurate and has been changed online. A correction will run in the Saturday paper. The Daily Herald apologizes for the error.

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