Commonwealth Plywood Sawmill reopening in the Ottawa Valley

A region built on a rich history of the lumber industry is getting a boost with the reopening of one of its sawmills.

Commonwealth Plywood Co. Ltd. plans to reopen its sawmill in Rapides des Joachims in the Pontiac in November. It will bring 65 new immediate jobs, with work starting on red and white pine.

“For that town, that municipality, for this to reopen is huge,” Jane Toller, Warden of the MRC Pontiac, told CTV News Ottawa.

“For the psychological revitalization of this area we have to be a player in forestry.”

The Outaouais and the Ottawa Valley have a shared history in the lumber industry. While sawmills on the Ontario side of the border have been prospering as of late, the same cannot be said for mills north of the border.

“We had three major mills right along Highway 148,” Toller recalls before their closure.

“What has been very disheartening and hard on people is watching trucks taking our wood out to the mills up in Maniwaki or down in Windsor.”

Residents of Pembroke may be familiar with the name Commonwealth Plywood; an abandoned factory bearing the name still sits empty on River Road.

The factory has sat unused since 2010 when a labour strike began and was never resolved.

Local forestry experts say the reopening of the mill proves just how deep the roots of the lumber trade run in the valley.

“The reopening of the mill is a very positive indication of how strong the forest sector is,” says John Pineau, the Executive Director of the Ontario Woodlot Association and a forestry tech professor at Algonquin College in Pembroke.

“Certainly, the reopening of this mill, with the investment of a million dollars, and getting it back up and running with the latest and great technology after almost a decade; that’s pretty telling.”

Rapides des Joachims is a village of approximately 150 people, meaning the reopening of the mill will create a massive local economic upturn.

“There’s a real need for people to fill those jobs, and there’s lots of opportunity in the forest sector and this is another indication,” Pineau says.

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