An Errington mill, which shut down after 30 years of operation in December 2019, has fired up again.
Ninety per cent of the laid-off staff were rehired at Errington Cedar Products, and co-owner Steven Orcutt called day one “positive.”
Orcutt’s late father built the mill and he owns the property with his siblings. After it underwent foreclosure in October, it eventually went to auction. Orcutt said after going back and forth, he decided on the day of the auction to buy it — he teamed up with co-owners Gus Sangha and Bob Aulakh to make it happen.
“We actually waited right to auction day, me and Gus and Bob all sat down and on auction day we said, ‘well, let’s just do it,’ so we ended up buying it all back,” said Orcutt. “My sister and I were going to buy certain pieces back so that we could do kind of our own thing, on a smaller version, and then when two other partners came in we decided, we might as well buy it all and start over.”
When the mill closed, it was one of many. The B.C. forest industry has dealt with a series of challenges related to low lumber market prices, the mountain pine beetle infestation and wildfires.
However, Orcutt said he feels optimistic. Rather than sticking with western red cedar and yellow cedar products, they’ve made the move to branch out, and he feels hopeful about the direction they’re taking.
“We are not holding ourselves to any certain species, we’re starting on hemlock, we’re starting on stuff that we have sales for,” he said. “And we’ll take it from there, but we are going to be cutting all species… we have some new customers.”
Orcutt said he thinks his dad would be happy to see the mill running while still in the family.
“I think the first thing he’d say is, ‘really, you want to be a sawmiller?’” he said, while laughing.
Liana Orcutt, his sister who has been involved in running the mill since 1994, chimed in.
“My dad is probably watching us, he’s probably got a thumbs up,” she said.
“My dad was all about his crew and his people, he treated everyone like his family… he’s probably smiling.”