Slave Lake, Alberta – Under a sunny sky, the community of Slave Lake came together today to celebrate the opening of Tolko’s Athabasca mill in Slave Lake, AB. Approximately 200 people, including the Honourable Pearl Calahasen, Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) for Slave Lake Region; Murray Kerik, Reeve of Lesser Slave River; Tyler Warman, Mayor of Slave Lake; community firefighters; RCMP officers; employees; the communities of Slave Lake and High Prairie; and customer guests from Canada, US, Japan, China, Taiwan and Europe, joined Brad Thorlakson, Tolko President and CEO and Jim Baskerville, VP Oriented Strand Board, to celebrate the grand opening of Tolko’s state-of-the-art Athabasca facility.
The mill, which opened for a short time in 2008 before curtailing operations due to poor market conditions in 2009, has the longest continuous press in North America and is capable of producing a wide variety of panel and specialty products in varying lengths and thicknesses.
In his speech to the diverse audience, Thorlakson thanked everyone for the continued support of the mill and Tolko during the economic downturn and looked forward to a prosperous future for the Athabasca operation. “We’ve carefully evaluated economic forecasts in the building products industry, and we’re confident that this is the right time to re-open.” He also noted that reopening the mill has provided approximately 150 direct and indirect jobs in the community, including salaried and hourly positions at the mill, contractors and suppliers, and related community employment opportunities.
Thorlakson also went on to thank the operating team at the mill saying: “The Athabasca group is an amazing team of highly skilled, safe, innovative, and engaged individuals who successfully took on the challenge of bringing the mill back on line. They are driven to succeed, to produce quality product and to create a strong culture that supports employees and gives back to the community. We’re looking forward to great things from this team and this facility.”
Other speakers during the event went on to echo Thorlakson’s thoughts on the potential of the mill and the talent and conviction of the operating team there. Vice President of OSB and Kraft Papers, Jim Baskerville also discussed the importance of the mill to customers and cited the ability to provide a wide range of quality products as well as the dedication to customer service, as key strengths of the new facility. “With our Meadow Lake OSB mill operating in tandem with our Athabasca facility, customers can look forward to product diversification, improved availability and consistency, and top-notch service from our OSB operations.”
The grand opening followed on the heels of the launch of the newly branded Tolko TStrand product at an event held in Edmonton on Wednesday evening. Hardy Wentzel, VP sales, marketing and logistics was pleased that the events coincided and offered the opportunity for customers and the community to see what Tolko has to offer. “This has been a great week for Tolko. We brought a wide variety of people together so we could show them where we are going in the OSB market and the possibilities provided by this state of the art facility. We’re celebrating and planning for a bright, customer focused future with a newly branded product line and a mill with extended capacity and product flexibility. After a long downturn, we’re looking forward and planning for the future.”
Ramp-up on the mill began in late 2013 with first board production in December of that year and it is expected to reach full production capacity by 2015.
Tolko Industries Ltd. is a private, Canadian-owned forest products company based in Vernon, British Columbia with approximately 3,400 employees. Tolko is a major producer and marketer of lumber, veneer, plywood, oriented strand board, and kraft papers, with manufacturing operations across Western Canada.