Minas Basin mill on the market

Mayor says some still ‘stunned’ by the closure

Ashley Thompson athompson@hantsjournal.ca
Published on December 24, 2012
Hants Journal

For some, the closure of the Minas Basin Pulp and Power mill is a life-altering reality.

The 85-year-old mill, with 135 employees, closed Dec. 14.

Hantsport Mayor Rob Zwicker, an engineer with CKF Inc. who spent four years at Minas Basin at the beginning of his career, says many of the affected employees are worried they will have to leave town to find work.

“That’s the question: Where am I going to work and be able to stay here? And there’s no real answer for that,” Zwicker said.

Others, he says, are still processing the news.

“I’ve talked to a number of people that are still stunned — dumbfounded — not sure what they’re going to do.”

The Hantsport-based paper mill’s parent company, Scotia Investments Limited, informed employees of the mill’s impending closure Nov. 1.

Robert Patzelt, Scotia Investment’s vice president of corporate development, says up to 40 outgoing mill employees will transfer to Minas Basin’s sister company, and neighbour, CKF.

“The difference with CKF is CKF is in the packaging business and that area of consumer packaging is growing and growing well,” he explained.

“We still have some challenges in terms of access to markets transportation-wise, but we are a dominant, successful company in the packing sphere in Canada.”

He says Minas Basin’s energy division will continue, but high transportation costs and stiff opposition — with newer, faster, low-cost production equipment — made it difficult for the company to remain competitive in the paper-making industry.

“Only the paper mill has been shut down. Minas Basin continues as a corporate entity, it will still produce energy for our own use within the group of companies (and) the energy department will still continue on its very exciting, successful energy projects,” Patzelt stressed.

The mill is posted for sale. Patzelt says the price will be determined in negotiations with potential buyers.

“There is some initial interest, however, it’s too early to tell what will happen.”

Patzelt says some of the outgoing salaried workers received severance packages, and an agreement was negotiated for union employees.

 “They were classy and hard-working and sophisticated manufacturing people right to the very last day and we thank everyone for all of their efforts most recently and, in fact, over the decades,” he said.

Patzelt says closing the R.A. Jodrey-founded mill was an essential, but difficult move to make. 

“It was a very, very tough decision and bittersweet because… this mill was what our founder used to rebuild his business and his fortune after the Depression.”

He says employees can take pride in knowing the paper mill survived as long as it did, outlasting many competitors during challenging times in the paper-making industry.

“One has to look back on that 85 years and review it as representative of the outstanding success that this Hantsport and Nova Scotia company achieved.”

Moving forward, Zwicker says town council will be focusing on drawing new businesses and residents to Hantsport by promoting the town as “quaint community” with safe streets, a good school and “lower costs of living.”

“Hantsport is the funniest little place. You blink and you’ve driven through it but it’s got such wonderful potential.”

Zwicker says the last thing council wants to do is hike taxes to make up the commercial tax revenue lost with the closure of Fundy Gypsum and Minas Basin Pulp and Power.