New-look Harmac officially back in business

Published: November 10, 2008 3:00 PM

A familiar "old girl" gave birth to a brand new company in the forestry industry Thursday, surrounded by family and friends.

Pat Bell, Minister of Forests, Gerry Tellier, Nanaimo Forest Products director, and Jim Shaw, a long-term employee, cut a red ribbon that decorated the first bale of pulp to come off the line in over five months at the new Harmac Pacific.

"It's very emotional to see all the families, friends and employees here to share this day with us," said Levi Sampson, president of Harmac Pacific.

It's been a distressing time for the employees, whose lives were put on hold when former mill owners Pope & Talbot declared bankruptcy last spring. But rather than see their mill dismantled, the employees, along with three other investor groups, formed a unique partnership and bid for the company.

At the event Thursday were politicians from all levels, First Nations representatives, retired and current workers, along with many friends and family.

"More than 200 families will directly benefit from the new Harmac," said Paul Sadler, general manager and CEO of Harmac. "As well as, 800 more families in our community will benefit indirectly from us being back in business."

The past, present and future, not just of Harmac but also of Nanaimo , were represented in the crowd of onlookers.

"Three generations of my family have worked here," said Shaw, who has worked at Harmac for 39 years and is optimistic despite the global economic downturn.

Six months ago, many employees saw no future at all and left for jobs elsewhere.

But those who remain are excited about the future.

"I'm glad we're here today. It was a pretty sad day when it closed," said Ron Vanroussum, a Harmac employee for 23 years.

"We'll be successful because of the tremendous support from the community and our investors."

The entire region will benefit if Harmac succeeds.

To that end, Nanaimo Mayor Gary Korpan announced that city council has approved tax reductions for Harmac that will approach $2 million over the next five years.

On a recent trip to the United States and Europe , Sampson met with suppliers and customers and had to introduce them to the new Harmac and convince them of the mill's viability.

"We will prove everyone wrong who said we can't be successful," said Sampson.