As of right now the employees of True North Hardwood Plywood are being laid off indefinitely.
“We went from 104 employees...on our way up to 240 if we kept ramping up...to now this week we're still running about 50 and at the end of this week will be down to about 12,” said Stephen Depow, General Manager.
By Christmas the mill will be down to about six employees.
The mill has filed for a notice of intent, which is similar to creditor protection. Depow says the mill will have to be sold and that the investors have all agreed to put their shares up for sale.
The reason the mill is slated for an indefinite shutdown is because of inadequate financing.
“There's no issue on the mill, the markets are fine, the employees were trained...it's just that we didn't have...the funding didn't come through for inventory financing,” said Depow.
The mill operated for an entire year with not enough wood to even run one shift.
“That ties back to the inadequate inventory financing,” said Depow.
The funding comes from various places but the current owners had applied for financing for inventory and funds to help train employees and neither of those came through.
The investors put their money in, Taykwa Tagamou Nation put money in but the mill didn't receive the financing they needed to carry large enough inventories to run at an adequate, official level.
“The mill is down indefinitely until either there's adequate funding or new investors,” said Depow.
Last week the mill was still drawing, this week they're still pressing and next week they'll be finishing ends and shipping their products. After that there will be no more operations at True North.
The inadequate funding is the end all, be all of the mill's current situation but the lack of committed wood was another factor.
Depow says it goes back to the last time the mill was shut down. When the mill opened back up the wood supply was not available to the mill because some companies had entered into agreements and the wood that was allocated to True North was going elsewhere.
“If you look back it shouldn't have happened, we should have gotten our wood when we started,” he said.
In the end the wood supply was coming in fine but it took a long time to get to that place.
“Initially it took a lot to get the wood flowing again. It did happen but it was late,” said Depow.
If the wood supply would have been available from the beginning the mill could have continued ramping up and even without the adequate financing they would have been fine.
“At the end of the run everything was working excellent, we need to be positive here, the employees...the 104 were trained, markets were good, wood was coming in, but at that point we had suffered a period of ramping up that had cost more in the budget,” added Depow.
This is the time of year that the mill should be busiest but here they are shutting down.
“Bottom line is it's a good mill, the markets are reasonably good, the mill works perfect, the mills in better shape now then it's been in decades...the wood was coming in fine at the end of the period...we just didn't have the adequate funds to pay for it,” said Depow.
As of right now the shutdown is being called a lay off. In early January they'll have a better idea of what will happen with the employees.
The mill is in a holding pattern until it either receives financing or new investors.
“The plan is to hold the mill and hold it in good shape,” said Depow.