Minas Basin Pulp and Power Limited’s mill in Hantsport is closing in mid-December.
Incoming Mayor Rob Zwicker says he was informed that the board of Scotia Investments Limited felt it was no longer “feasible” to keep the mill running on Nov. 1, the same day employees were notified of the decision.
“It’s a pretty sad day in the town,” Zwicker, an engineer with CKF Inc., said in an interview.
He says the closure will impact 135 jobs, but there has been talk that as many as 40 people may be able to find work “across the street” at CKF.
“I just want (people) to know that Scotia Investments, basically the Jodrey family, have been great employers for this area for a number of years. They’re not cutting and running, they’re working to get employment for their employees, they’re doing the best that they can.”
Zwicker estimated that Minas Basin Pulp and Power pays about $275,000 in taxes to the Town of Hantsport annually. For a town already coping with the significant reduction in tax revenue that resulted from the closure of Fundy Gypsum, Zwicker admits losing yet another major employment centre within the town is troubling news.
“It has the potential to put further burden on the town and then we’ll have to work through that.”
He says his “heart goes out” to the employees impacted by the closure.
A memo Scotia Investments Limited distributed to employees Nov. 1 says it has been a struggle to keep the mill open for this long.
“With last year’s restructuring of operations and adjusting of the workforce, many have remained hopeful that, together with some recent improvement in pricing, the mill could be competitive. However, after several years of challenge, the board has concluded that it is time to recognize that the mill is at the end of its cycle,” the memo, signed by President and CEP Archie MacPherson, reads.
“Long term sustainability cannot be achieved. Like most other mills in this sector, we continue to experience marketplace challenges, increased competition (using newer, more efficient technology) and rising costs of operation.”
The memo says Scotia Investments will attempt to assist the impacted employees through the transition.
“We are in touch with our own member companies and other employers throughout the entire region, as many of our employees have qualifications that would be considered by others to be valuable assets.”
The memo to employees says Minas Basin Pulp and Power’s energy division will continue, and its sister company, CKF. Inc, is in line for an expansion.
“It is important to note that we are not leaving the paper or packaging industry,” the prepared statement says.
“We are re-focusing within the paper sector on those areas in which we can confidently succeed.”
Wayne Folker, Hantsport’s outgoing mayor, says it is his understanding the buildings used by Minas Basin Pulp and Power will not be sold.
“Most taxation revenues are from buildings only now… machinery and equipment tax was eliminated so the new council will have to sit down and discuss this with the owners and their representatives and so on as to what the implications on the taxes will be, but I’ve been told that the buildings will still be there so there probably will be tax revenue continued with those,” he said in a brief phone interview Nov. 1.
Folker, who worked for Scotia Investment’s Hantsport-based companies for 49 years, said he was “taken aback” when he learned the 85-year-old mill was closing.
“It’s quite a shock to all of us, especially on the heels of Fundy Gypsum and what went on there… we’ll just have to wait and see when the smoke clears as to what’s going to be involved and just how it’s going to affect us.”
Hants West MLA Chuck Porter issued a press release criticizing the NDP’s jobsHere initiative the afternoon word spread of the mill’s impending closure.
“Today we have 135 new examples that prove the NDP’s jobs plan has been a complete and total failure,” he said.
“The Minister of Economic Development’s suggestions that his jobs plan is working is a slap in the face to the workers who have lost jobs.”
Thousands of jobs have been lost outside of Halifax in the last three years, Porter notes in the release. He cites high taxes and rising power costs as cause for concern.
“My thoughts today are with the workers and their families who have received terrible news,” the Conservative MLA continues in the prepared statement. “Hope for the future is hard to come by while our province keeps going in the wrong direction.”
The late R.A. Jodrey founded Minas Basin Pulp and Power Company Limited in 1927.