A new sawmill is now cutting timber in the region. The Minister of Forests was on hand, so rare has it been in recent years of mill contractions, to welcome the brand new operation.
Duz Cho Forest Products is the new kid on the cut-block, officially opening in Mackenzie this week.
According to the mill's ownership team, this facility could open because it made use of product research and technological innovation. They are making things with a reliable market that no one else was providing.
"The mill was designed to cut cants specifically for export to China, the Middle East, and a small percentage to the United States," said the Duz Cho team. "It uses small-diameter logs - primarily mountain pine beetle attacked logs - that are not used nor wanted by other manufacturers in the area. The mill has also experimented with processing deciduous logs, aspen."
They also determined a market for the sawdust and other wood residue, selling that to the Mackenzie pulp mill.
The Duz Cho facility is primarily outdoors. It will employ about 28 people. Its workforce profile right now is 64 per cent being of First Nations descent. Half of those are from the McLeod Lake Indian Band (founders of the Duz Cho name, a longtime brand in local industrial sectors), the other half a mix of aboriginal backgrounds, and the remaining 36 per cent from other ethnicity groups.
Furthermore, 36 per cent of the mill's workers are women.
Al Humphreys, CEO of Duz Cho Forest Products, said "We are proud of our diverse workforce. The Duz Cho mill is operating above planned production levels in large part because of the dedicated and empowered workforce we are fortunate to employ. The fibre quality meets or exceeds our customers' expectations, and the mill's success is helping provide an economic boost to Mackenzie and local First Nations."
Its design allows the mill to process approximately 240,000 cubic metres of timber annually.
"Duz Cho has been a significant contributor to the local economy over the years and their innovation in identifying a market and utilizing the small diameter wood affected by the mountain pine beetle is commendable," said Mike Morris, MLA for Prince George-Mackenzie.
Minister of Forests Steve Thomson said "I applaud Duz Cho on their innovation and ingenuity. They have managed to take wood that no one else is using, and create 28 jobs. At the same time, they are training the next generation of forestry workers."