By Kelsey Verboom
As a kid growing up in Radium, I remember lying in bed with the window open on hot summer nights, listening to the chug and clang of the sawmill a few blocks away.
In 2009, the sounds of logs being processed and stacked, trucks being loaded, and workers calling out to each other came to an abrupt halt with the shuttering of the Canfor mill.
Last week’s announcement that Canfor is investing $38.5 million in the Radium mill and an additional $1.5 million in the Canal Flats mill is great news for both towns, and for the valley as a whole. Many former Canfor workers have been getting by with odd jobs, have started new businesses on their own, or have left the valley for greener stands of wood.
When a large employer shuts its doors and so many workers simultaneously lose their jobs, the ensuing ripple effect is sharply felt throughout the community. Coupled with a sagging national economy, hundreds of locals suddenly needing to curtail spending, downsize, or even move, has been difficult for the valley to deal with.
The shutdown affected school enrollment, the rental market, small business, and the general moods of many.Which is why the reopening of Radium’s mill is worth celebrating in a big way. Sure, it’s no guarantee or golden goose egg, but it’s the exact spark our valley needs.
In many ways our area is entirely at the mercy of provincial and national politics, which control the forest and mining industries and make decisions that sometimes affect tourism numbers. People often speak of the importance of expanding local industries other than forestry to make our ability to sustain ourselves as a valley more stable. But realistically, we won’t have the luxury or finances to explore and expand other industries until we find our footing in a firm and steady economy.
The reopening of the mill, the approval of Jumbo, and the arrival of summer are three milestones that bring with them the possibility of hundreds of local jobs, and a turnaround from the past few lean years.
So listen to the noises of construction banging away at the Radium mill and enjoy them: they are the sounds of jobs, money, and a much-needed community boost.