Timber supply and labor are key to success in the Northwest, says New Resolute Forest Products CEO
The new President and CEO of Resolute Forest Products has close ties to Thunder Bay and northwestern Ontario.
Rémi Lalonde was General Manager of the Thunder Bay Pulp and Paper Mill for two and a half years in the mid-2010s.
He said operations in northwestern Ontario are an integral part of Resolute, noting that the company understands its social and economic impacts on Atikokan, Ignace, Thunder Bay and surrounding areas.
“What we’ve seen over the past few quarters here is a significant improvement in the performance of our wood products business, and it’s good for our footprint in Northwestern Ontario,” said The Londe.
“[It’s] good for the economy, good for Resolute, and good for the people there.
Lalonde said that although the lumber market is strong, demand for paper is weak as the company has closed two paper mills in Quebec.
As for its operations in Thunder Bay, Lalonde said the plant has some advantages.
“I know these assets very, very well. I would say to you that Thunder Bay’s operating assets are very good assets, they’re competitive, but what’s important in northwestern Ontario is all the infrastructure.
“New York of paper”
Lalonde said he was told Thunder Bay once considered itself the “New York of paper,” due to its extensive pulp and paper operations. Demand has changed, he said, making lumber more attractive and profitable.
“As we say, we harvest to make 2x4s, and the by-product is pulp and paper. The additional element to keep in mind in Northwestern Ontario is the role of the cogeneration operation at the pulp and paper mill, as this serves to support the competitiveness of the asset and uses a waste by-product to generate electricity.
“When you look at it, when you work your way through the chain of fibers, the reality is that the logs are round and you make dimensional lumber, and when you cut the edges it’s from there. that comes from the wood chips. The sum of the parts is greater than the whole, and in our case, it is the integrated infrastructure, where each part is supposed to work together. “
The industry is not without challenges, he said, noting that sourcing wood and obtaining “reasonable” access to fiber are issues in all Resolute jurisdictions, including northwestern Ontario.
But there is another major concern, which has nothing to do with trees.
“There is a shortage of skilled labor. I used to say when I was a general manager there that the biggest gaps in the job I had were millwrights and electricians.
“There are great jobs for trades available and operators as well,” he said, noting that the pandemic has also made operating large factories a challenge.
Lalonde said working for 2.5 years in Thunder Bay taught him a lot about the company he now runs.
He said he started out as a “business guy”, working as a lawyer, then going into business and finance.
“The depth of appreciation it has given me for the role each member of the Resolute team plays in our success, from the people who run the machines to the guys and girls who turn the keys, to the corporate people. , everyone plays a role, ”he said.
“I always wear my CEO safety hat here, even as CEO, to remind myself … where the root of this company really comes from.”