Nova Scotia Premier Unveils Plan to Help Keep Port Hawkesbury Mill Sale-Ready

In August, NewPage announced it would shutdown both of the mill's paper machines indefinitely — PM1 on Sept. 10 (newsprint)and PM2 on Sept. 16 (supercalendered).

Sept. 12, 2011 - A seven-point action plan released on Sept. 9 by Premier Darrell Dexter strives to employ hundreds of woods workers, provide specialized training programs and keep the NewPage mill in Port Hawkesbury ready for a quick re-sale.

Premier Dexter outlined the details of a $15-million investment that will employ about 500 people in the Strait area and surrounding communities.

"As premier, the best thing I can do to support workers, families and contractors — now and in the future — is to ensure this mill finds a good new owner," said Dexter. "The province's action plan will help ensure a more secure future for the people of the Strait area."

The plan strives to keep the woodlands operation of the mill and the vital supply chain to plant, intact — all critical to ensuring a quick re-sale.

"By keeping the supply chain operating, we can say to interested buyers: here we have an efficient workforce, here we have one of the best mills in the world, and here in Port Hawkesbury we have a mill in hot idle with a supply chain intact. It's ready to go without needless delay," said Dexter.

The Province says the seven-point plan includes actions to:

  • Expand the province's silviculture program for 2011 and 2012. The province will maintain the planned $2.5 million in silviculture programs for Crown land and private land and expand that by an additional half million dollars on Crown land and an additional $1 million for silviculture on private lands. The maintenance and expansion of this program will provide work for the existing silviculture contractors and crews — approximately 300 people — as well as work for contractors and crew members who will transition to silviculture work.
  • Stockpile wood for future use in the Strait to keep harvesters and truckers working. Much of this work will involve creating a stockpile of fuel for the Biomass Cogen facility. That project requires a supply of dried fuel to proceed on schedule. The province will keep harvesters and truckers working to build that supply.
  • Ensure Crown forest roads are maintained in the NewPage Port Hawkesbury harvest area. Normally all Crown licensees such as NewPage are responsible to fund forest road construction and maintenance. The province will invest $125,000 per month for the next few months to keep the usual number of road contractors working to maintain NewPage's road infrastructure. This investment will also ensure that when a new buyer is secured, the forest roads are in good, working order.
  • Ensure the mill is able to retain a core team of about 20 woodlands staff with the knowledge and ability to facilitate work and training and oversee the appropriate use of Crown land.
  • Amend the Credit Union Small Business Loan Program to better address financing concerns for contractors and other small businesses. The existing loan program, administered by the Department of Economic and Rural Development and Tourism and the Credit Unions, provides a loan guarantee from the province of up to 75 per cent of the loan. Government will increase the minimum loan amount and the amortization period and offer an initial guarantee of 90 per cent, for qualifying businesses.
  • Invest up to $3.5 million and work with the NewPage Port Hawkesbury's core woodlands team to develop specialized training programs for self-employed workers that will focus on silviculture, sustainable forestry practices, productivity improvements and efficiency of forestry operations. By investing in customized training programs, combined with practical work experience, the province hopes to help industry meet the 50 per cent clearcutting target by 2015, while keeping the woodlands workforce operational.
  • Engage a world-market specialist to complete a comprehensive market study for newsprint and the high-gloss paper, for which the Port Hawkesbury plant has specialized equipment. This is important because the province and any potential new buyer must understand the global markets and identify opportunities to make sure the mill is viable into the future.

"This seven-point action plan is designed to get us through the next three months as we prepare for the re-sale of this plant," said Dexter. "The Port Hawkesbury mill is one of the most efficient in the world, with a highly skilled workforce and a superior product.

"I am confident and optimistic that a buyer will recognize this valuable asset and ensure its successful future right here in Port Hawkesbury."

SOURCE: The Daily Business Buzz