County promotes value of mill

Richard Froese
South Peace News

High Prairie Forest Products has been commended by Big Lakes County council for its role in the local economy and the region.

At its regular meeting Nov. 28, council was updated on operations by general manager Lee Barton.

“We are a big part of the community, we want to be profitable and we want to grow,” Barton says.

A major $55 million modernization project was launched in June 2017 that, he says, will make it one of the top mills in the continent.

“We’ve invested heavily in the long-term sustainability in High Prairie,” Barton says.

He notes West Fraser is also committed to its staff to work in a safe setting, provide opportunities to grow in the field.

Council recognizes those efforts.

“You get a lot more production when you treat them well, keep it up,” Reeve Richard Simard says.

“People in this community don’t realize the value of the mill in the region,” North Gilwood – Triangle Councillor Ken Matthews adds.

“I’m looking forward to the future of the mill.”

Residents will have an open opportunity to see the stud mill in action next year.

“One of our goals in 2019 is to have tour days on Fridays,” Barton says.

High Prairie Forest Products is also reaching out to youth as a partner in the annual forestry career fair held the past two years in High Prairie for Grade 9 students.

He notes High Prairie Tolko mill is also a main partner in the event to promote job opportunities in the field.

“We have two great businesses here and we want to build it up through young people,” Barton says.

Moving forward, he says the industry faces a dire crisis with the mountain pine beetle devastating pine trees in huge swaths in northern Alberta.

“It’s getting worse, including an area south of Swan Hills,” Barton says.

He notes the industry has launched a campaign to seek government support and funding to battle the beetle, and letters of support from municipalities and industry partners.

CAO Roy Brideau says a recommendation from the county will be presented at the next meeting Dec. 12.


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