District businesses Manitou Forest Products and Henry's Trucking last week received a combined investment of $1.375 million from the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corp. that will create 10 new jobs in all.
Local MPP Greg Rickford, who also is the minister of energy and northern development and mines, as well as chair of the NOHFC, was at Manitou Forest Products on Friday afternoon to make the announcement.
“I am pleased to announce that our government is investing $913,000 for new equipment and building refurbishments right here at Manitou Forest Products,” Rickford said.
“This investment deal, as I understand, will increase production to meet demand, increase storage capacity, and allow year-round operation of the sawmill building,” he noted.
“As a result, seven full-time jobs are being created here at Manitou Forest Products.”
Rickford subsequently announced a $462,500 investment through the NOHFC for Henry's Trucking that will be used to expand its forest-harvesting operations.
“For nearly 30 years, Henry's Trucking has provided contract services for Ontario's forest industry,” Rickford said.
“The investment that I'm announcing today [Friday] supports the purchase of three new pieces of logging equipment resulting in three new full-time jobs.”
Rickford, who also is minister of indigenous affairs, made note of how these investments will benefit local First Nations' communities.
“You all sure know that Manitou Forest Products is a joint venture between Rainy River First Nations and the Kaemingh family,” he remarked.
"This longstanding relationship began more than 30 years ago.
“The business has grown significantly . . . it's undergone several expansions, upgrades, and building additions,” Rickford added.
"It's a partnership that has resulted in jobs, real economic growth, and social development opportunities for the region and, importantly, Rainy River First Nation.
"More than half the staff employed at Manitou Forest Products are First Nations.
“And this partnership is a shining example of how industry and First Nations can and will work together to create sustainable and profitable ventures that are mutually-beneficial to their communities,” he lauded.
Rickford also touched on the importance of the forestry industry, specifically here in Rainy River District.
“A strong forestry sector, despite the significant hit that Fort Frances has taken in the past couple of years, is important to Ontario's economy and it's going to be important to Fort Frances/Rainy River District's economies moving forward,” he pledged.
“This industry supports more than 150,000 direct and in-direct jobs in 260 communities across Ontario.”
Rickford said these two investments fall in line with his commitment to promote business and boost local economies in Northwestern Ontario.
Moving forward, he has high hopes of making many returns to Rainy River District to announce similar NOHFC investments pertaining to industry.
“I'd like to think that over the course of the next four years, you guys will almost get tired of me coming down here, being around the riding, and making important announcements that make a difference for our communities,” he quipped.
“Whether it's infrastructure and social, health, or business opportunities, we need to get back on track here,” Rickford stressed.
“The Northern Ontario Heritage Fund supports these strategic investments, and is going to get even bigger and better as time marches on.”
Dale Kaemingh, manager and partner of Manitou Forest Products, admitted acquiring the NOHFC money wasn't easy but well worth the wait.
“It's always an uphill battle," he remarked. ”It takes time and you've got to be patient.
“Anytime you deal with government officials and programs and applications, there is a lot of due diligence,” Kaemingh added.
“Sometimes you want to throw the towel in but at the end of the day, when you do get it, it's worth it,” he smiled.
Through this investment, Manitou Forest Products will be embarking on a roughly $2-million expansion to increase efficiency, yields, quality, and production.
“We're going to clean up some orders and our logs before we shut down for about four weeks, and hopefully have things back up and going sometime in late September or October,” Kaemingh said.
Rickford, meanwhile, hopes to make more announcements pertaining to strategic investments in the forestry sector.
“I had a great meeting with Resolute Forest Products one-on-one a couple of weeks ago,” he noted.
“It's part of a first step in . . . making sure that people who have been involved in the forest sector for generations have an opportunity to expand their businesses, to find new work in that sector, or in some instances move on,” Rickford said.
“Whatever it is, we're going to work with the Town of Fort Frances, we're going to work with Resolute Forest Products and any other partners, to make sure that we have a positive outcome and we can change the channel and move forward together,” he enthused.