News Local

MDF plant to reopen

By Stephen Uhler, The Daily Observer

In April, it was announced Laurentian Valley Township's medium density fibreboard plant is gearing up to reopen. Now renamed Pembroke MDF, the plant was able to secure a supply of cheaper electricity to reopen the operation. Here, Ontario Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli helps announce the good news.

In April, it was announced Laurentian Valley Township's medium density fibreboard plant is gearing up to reopen. Now renamed Pembroke MDF, the plant was able to secure a supply of cheaper electricity to reopen the operation. Here, Ontario Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli helps announce the good news.

LAURENTIAN VALLEY TWP. - Start spreading the news; the fibreboard plant is back in business.

On Friday, during a press conference held inside the massive facility, located on Fibreboard Drive, off of Whitewater Road, it was announced the newly crowned Pembroke MDF plant - formally ATC Panels - will resume operations this July.

If all goes well, the company will be hiring 140 workers, starting with 110 to begin with, then the rest will be hired on as operations ramp up.

This news is also a welcome boost to the region's forest industry and its nearly 1,900 jobs, supplying the plant with 1,000 trucks of wood materials month, and is expected to create a ripple effect and spinoffs to create or sustain another 1,500 jobs.

Jose Kofman, Pembroke MDF president, told the large assembly of local VIPs, politicians, company officials, government staff and economic development people they always hoped to reopen the plant, which has been in sleep mode for the past five to six years, since being forced to shut it down at the end of 2008.

"We were confronted with a very ugly economic situation," he said, a perfect storm of lessened demand, higher costs for wood fibre and a steep increase in the price of electricity.

Together, it made the MDF plant uneconomical to run, and so they were forced to close it down until things improved.

Flash forward to 2014. The year before, in June 2013, the company applied to the provincial government's Industrial Electrical Incentive program, which under a six-year agreement provides new or expanding industries low cost power.

Kofman said they learned they were approved at the end of last year, and immediately set out to reopen the plant.

"We'll get the main plant going first, and the molding plant will open at a later date," he said, noting this is a case showing how beneficial enlightened government initiatives can help an industry.

Ontario Energy Ministry Bob Chiarelli was on hand to personally offer his congratulations and best wishes to the reopened plant and the communities it will benefit.

"This really is a meaningful announcement," he said, noting it is programs like the IEI which help Ontario maintain its competitive edge. "This is a good news story."

"Targeted programs like IEI improve the competitiveness of Ontario companies in an increasingly competitive global economy," Chiarelli said. "This is a step in the right direction for Ontario manufacturers to spur economic growth and create jobs, while benefitting from a reliable and cost-efficient electricity system."

Laurentian Valley Mayor Jack Wilson said this is great news for the township and Renfrew County, and for the local lumber and logging industry.

"I'm glad it is open again."

Pembroke Mayor Ed Jacyno said anything which boosts well paying jobs in the area is a good thing, and will benefit everyone.

Renfrew County Warden Peter Emon said any time someone adds 140 employees back on the payroll is good news all around. He said he knows there were a number of people waiting for the plant to reopen.

"Their payroll is $5 million, plus there are seven local companies which will be supplying their operations," Emon said.

"This will be a trickle down of good fortune."

Stephen Uhler is a Daily Observer multimedia journalist

stephen.uhler@sunmedia.ca

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