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A relaunch for the Pembroke fibreboard plant

By Sean Chase, The Daily Observer


After sitting idle for six years, the Pembroke MDF fibreboard plant is once more operational supported by $3 million in federal funding.


Dignitaries gathered at the plant situated east of Pembroke Monday to celebrate its official reopening. Gary Goodyear, Minister of State for the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario, was on hand to announce that the plant will receive up to $3 million to support upgrades to the facility, including buying new equipment, as well as repairs and structural improvements.

“Our government's investment in Pembroke MDF (Medium Density Fibre) highlights our ongoing commitment to creating jobs and prosperity in southern Ontario,” Goodyear told employees and municipal leaders attending the ceremony inside the massive plant. “By supporting the growth and productivity of local facilities such as this, we continue to build and reinforce Canada's role as a leader in manufacturing in the international market.”

Pembroke MDF promises to create up to 160 full-time jobs. Additional employment will be generated in the forestry, local transportation, logistics supply chain, and electrical and maintenance shops. First opening in 1997 as ATC Panels, the plant was shut down in November, 2006 after the company had been forced to do so because of a perfect storm of lessening demand for fibreboard, increasing costs for wood fibre and a steep increase in the price of electricity.

Goodyear noted that manufacturing is climbing back, up five per cent from last year. He added manufacturing is critical to maintaining the nation's prosperity and long-term economic gains.

“A healthy forestry industry is an integral part of this nation's economic success including this region,” said the minister. “This is a great project and something worth fighting for.”

Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke MP Cheryl Gallant noted that the plant has, in the past, played an important role in the community in terms of producing quality material and providing viable employment.

“When the plant closed, the impact was felt deeply throughout our community,” said Gallant. “Today we're standing here in a much happier place. I'm excited to see the lights turned back on and the doors being reopened.”

Pembroke MDF comes back just as the demand for medium density fibre has increased demand in national and international markets. The company stressed that they will serve a larger customer base in Canada and the U.S. and produce high-quality panels with greater efficiency than before. Juan Obach, president of Inversiones Pathfinder Chile, the partnership of Chilean investors who purchased the plant, said they had faith that the market would come back after the crash of the housing market in 2008 and decided to maintain the facility. He added they plan to branch into producing more value-added, sophisticated products for the market in the months to come.

“We are extremely excited and deeply emoted today,” said Obach. “We believe in a bright future for the Pembroke facility. We are here for the long run.”

Presiding over the trials and tribulations of ATC Panels, Laurentian Valley Mayor Jack Wilson said he was pleased to see steam rising from the plant once more. He thanked his council and staff for their diligence in working with the plant's owners to see this project come to fruition. Wilson also appealed to the federal and provincial governments to maintain the logging footprint in Algonquin Park.

“I think tourism and forestry can get along,” he said closing with a stark warning. “If they close Algonquin Park these boards won't be here to supply all over the world.”

Sean Chase is a Daily Observer multimedia journalist 

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