Abdul Shikhden and Amer al Kadro work at the planer mill of Skeena Sawmills in 2018. (File photo)

Skeena Sawmills seeks government funding

Company needs $15 million, original funding source affected by COVID-19

Skeena Sawmills is seeking government funding to carry it through the COVID-19 pandemic.

The company, which has operated a sawmill in the Terrace area since 2013 and opened a pellet plant last year, has invested approximately $70 million to establish operations so far and is on the cusp of turning a profit, according to CEO Roger Keery.

The company typically relies on financing from owner Teddy Cui, a Chinese property developer, but Cui’s businesses in China have slowed significantly because of the pandemic. Also, moving funds from China to Canada has grown increasingly difficult in recent years due to frosty relations between the two countries.

Now, the company is looking to the B.C. government and the federal government for approximately $15 million to cover operating costs and to upgrade its aging sawmill.

“It’s not a bailout for us, it’s simply operating capital,” Keery said, noting the company is currently debt-free.

The sawmill had been shuttered by former owner West Fraser Timber but was purchased by Cui in 2011 and re-opened in 2013 following some improvements.

Although $50 million has already been invested in the sawmill, Keery said it badly needs rejuvenation including new dry kilns, an upgraded planer, and upgraded head saw, and a conveyor belt to move sawdust from the mill to the adjacent pellet plant.

“We have a very dated sawmill, to put it politely,” he said.

The parent company to Skeena Sawmills invested an additional $20 million into an adjacent pellet plant that opened in 2019, which was essential to the success of the sawmill, Keery said.

“Prior to that we were trying to run our sawmill with no home for all the bark and sawdust and so on,” he said.

The company has difficulty securing private financing in North America because that lumber market is facing a downturn, Keery said, but much of Skeena Sawmills’ business goes to Asian markets, which are currently in much better shape.

Keery said demand in Asia is much higher than Skeena Sawmills can currently produce, and newer equipment at the sawmill could boost production to meet demand.

“We could sell double our volume right now,” he said.

Skeena Sawmills sent a letter to the City of Terrace requesting its support in obtaining financing from higher levels of government.

City council discussed the request at its April 14 council meeting and voted unanimously to provide that support.

Speaking at the meeting, Mayor Carol Leclerc said Skeena Sawmills is faring much better than other sawmills in the province and has been an integral part of the community.

“They’re in a great position to come out of all of this,” she said. “They’re sliding into home plate and they just need to touch it.”

Skeena Sawmills employs approximately 150 people, directly and indirectly, between the mill and pellet plant.

Keery said the sawmill was in the process of hiring for a second shift at the mill when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. This was fortunate, he said, because they had extra hands on deck to cover for employees on the first shift who stayed home due to the virus.

Keery said he was pleased with the support Skeena Sawmills has received from its employees and the community in response to the pandemic.

“Going into this [COVID-19] thing, I thought, ‘We’re not going to be able to run. Everybody’s going to head for the hills.’”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

CHN, province reach ‘milestone’ tree cutting agreement, reducing annual cut by 13%

Haida Gwaii Management Council has determined new allowable annual cut of 804,000 cubic metres

Outage impacting south island GwaiiComm, Mascon customers

GwaiiTel aware of cable and internet outage; techs dispatched

VIDEO: B.C. artist filmed apocalyptic timelapse on Haida Gwaii

Tasha Lavdovsky footage symbolizes sea level rise; featured in Ora Cogan music video for ‘Sleeping’

‘Haida Modern’ doc on Robert Davidson to stream online in June

Award-winning documentary will premiere on Knowledge Network June 2

Some restaurants on Haida Gwaii hosting dine-in guests again

Queen B’s, Oceanview offering limited seating; barbershop in Queen Charlotte also reopened this week

Trudeau to seek 10 days of paid sick leave for Canadian workers, says talks are ongoing

Paid sick leave is key to keeping COVID-19 spread under control, prime minister says

Commercial rent relief applications open as feds encourage landlords to apply

Program would see government cover 50 per cent of the rent

COVID-19: B.C. park reservations surge as campgrounds reopen

Keep trying, many sites not reservable, George Heyman says

B.C. residents can now reserve a provincial campsite for a stay starting June 1

Campsite reservations will only be available to British Columbians

Cullen commission into money laundering in British Columbia resumes today

Inquiry was called amid growing concern that illegal cash was helping fuel real estate, luxury car and gambling

Introducing the West Coast Traveller: A voyage of the mind

Top armchair travel content for Alaska, Yukon, BC, Alberta, Washington, Oregon and California!

Bike shops busier than ever, but owners worry about stock supply issues

Uptick in cyclists brings new challenges for shops

RCMP facing ‘systemic sustainability challenges’ due to provincial policing role

Provinces, territories and municipalities pay anywhere from 70 to 90 per cent of the cost of the RCMP’s services

One man dead after standoff with Chilliwack RCMP

The Independent Investigations Office of B.C. is investigating the RCMP’s role in the death

Most Read