On Saturday, the ceremonial ribbon was cut in front of a crowd of over 200 at the Midway mill site.
Midway Mayor Randy Kappes welcomed the investors and various groups and thanked all those who put their faith in the project, especially emphasizing Midway village council’s role.
“My council had the vision to believe in this project and the faith to follow, as at times I lead them out on a limb to do the things that it took to get this project done,” Kappes said, holding back his emotion for a moment.
“This project does mean a lot to me, I don’t want to choke up.”
He also thanked the investors who took their own funds and invested in the mill.
“(They’d) taken their hard-earned cash and used it to buy themselves, their neighbours and our whole area a brighter future,” he said.
Minister of Forests, Lands and Resource Operations Steve Thomson said that he had hoped to be able to announce approval of the Midway and Greenwood application for a community forest but the process was still ongoing.
“I want to say that I will be looking very much forward to signing that agreement in the not too distant future,” Thomson said. “Which is part of the mix of what you need here to make this all successful.”
Thomson said he was glad to see the initiative take place that would help build jobs, create economic activity and support families and communities.
“This is all about creating good, well-paying jobs in the communities,” he said.
Duane Vaagen, president and CEO of Vaagen Brothers Lumber, said that though putting the whole project together was a sort of roller coaster, “nothing that’s worth it is easy.”
“We’re in the niche of small logs, so it’s just nice to be here, see this crowd today and know this mill’s not going away,” Vaagen said.
“There were people that probably wanted to see it go away but it doesn’t need to go away.”
Vaagen added that the mill still needed some retooling, which would happen.
“We’re glad to see your commitment, we guarantee ours, plus our co-operaration,” he said. “We’re very proud of the people who showed up here today.”
Russ Vaagen, Vaagen Brothers Lumber’s vice-president, said that the project was all about family and family businesses. “It’s really about the community and about the forests, and taking care of both of those things,” Vaagen said.
“There’s a symbiotic relationship there that we need to create and we’ve done it before with some success.”
Vaagen said that their company is the top supplier of chips to Celgar in Castlegar.
“Even though this is a new sawmill venture for us in Canada, it’s not our first time across the border,” he said.
Conservative candidate Stephen Hill, who was key in the re-opening, said that the what really excites him is that there has been a lot of interest from outside business as the mill re-opening gets closer.
Hill mentioned that among them, a 24-hour, heavy-duty truck repair operation, a pallet operator from up north, an ethanol plant operator from Victoria and a pre-manufactured home from Bowen Island, have all expressed interest in opening a location around Midway.
“Success breeds success,” Hill said. “This is just the beginning and we haven’t cut a two-by-four.”