Tolko Mill in Merritt slated for closure

By Bill O'Donovan / Jill Sperling / Chad Harris
September 22, 2016 - 4:55pm Updated: September 23, 2016 - 6:30am

MERRITT, B.C. — An economic blow to the the City of Merritt as Tolko Industries will close it's Nicola Valley operation this December.

The closure will put 203 people out of work on December 16th.

The company which purchased the mill in 1987 says based on a wood supply review there is not enough timber to supply all of the company's mills.

This has resulted in the decision to permanently close the Merritt operation.

“Making the decision to close an operation is never easy,” said Brad Thorlakson, President and CEO of Tolko in a news release. 

Thorlakson added, “We are focused on making decisions that ensure our long term success. As a company, we are very well positioned due to our geographic and product diversification.”

Notice was issued to employees today and full details regarding a transition package will be available to employees the week of October 10th.

Marty Gibbons, president of United Steelworkers local 1417, says the loss of jobs will greatly impact the City of Merritt. 

"Anywhere where you have 150-200 primary jobs the trickle down effect and the spin-off jobs are significant," Gibbons explained. "A small community like Merritt is obviously going to be hit very hard."

Gibbons said there were rumblings of trouble for the mill, but today's announcement was nevertheless a surprise. 

"We're still in shock. This mill has been with us for many years, a very loyal workforce, and it's just a hard day for Merritt."

Merritt MLA Jackie Tegart says the blow will hit the community hard. She says she's contacted Forests Minister Steve Thomson and Shirley Bond, the Minister of Jobs, Skills Training and Tourism to discuss possibilities. 

"I am coordinating a meeting between Merritt City Council and Minister Bond at the Union of B.C. Municipalities Meeting in Victoria  to discuss community needs in the short and long term" says Tegart. "I expect this meeting to take place on Monday and it is my priority to utilize this meeting to plan further initiatives to address the impact of this closure on Merritt and the surrounding communities."

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