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CHETWYND, B.C. — The Chetwynd Chamber of Commerce recently met with the Canfor transition team to lay out what the next steps are after it was announced that the community’s sawmill would be closing its doors.
Naomi Larsen, executive director of the Chetwynd Chamber of Commerce, told Energeticcity.ca that Canfor had established a transition office in Chetwynd to help assist the community.
Larsen outlined how the transition office was staffed with people who could help and answer questions about topics such as benefits, severance packages, and other employee supports.
Canfor currently plans to maintain its current property tax rate through 2024 to allow the district to prepare for the change in tax revenue, said Larsen. Canfor will also continue working with the local government throughout the transition period.
“They’re also establishing a Community Transition Fund and will work with local government to identify projects and initiatives that will provide the greatest benefit to the community,” Larsen said.
The community of Chetwynd was rocked after the announcement in January that Canfor would be closing its sawmill and pellet plant in April 2023.
In a community built “from the ground up on forestry,” Larsen said the impacts will be felt throughout the province.
“This affects our entire economy, from the trucking companies to the tire shops to the grocery stores to our local non-profits and organizations. There is a ripple effect that reaches out to the entire province,” Larsen said.
The Chetwynd chamber is following suit in supporting the community. According to Larsen, the chamber intends to ensure as much information as possible is available to those impacted by the closure.
“The Chetwynd Chamber will ensure information is available regarding resources and supports for Canfor employees on our website: A one-stop shop, so to say, with links and info,” Larsen explained.
“We will also be working on a business recovery page with links and resources as the closure affects so much more than just direct employees.”
Support for communities impacted by the forestry industry, like Chetwynd, is also coming from the provincial government.
Recently, the province announced it would be opening up a second round of the Rural Business and Community Recovery Initiative (RBCRI), providing $1.5 million to northern communities impacted by the forestry industry.
Larsen stated that while everyone wished more could be done, she was hopeful the funding would provide enough assistance where it is most needed.
“Without strong businesses, we will not have strong communities,” Larsen said.
“[The] government must prioritize creating a business climate that attracts investment and maintains and grows jobs within our communities.”
Despite all the uncertainty, Larsen said if there is one thing she is confident in, it’s the resilience of the Chetwynd community.
“Chetwynd has had some down times in the past and has come out strong. We can do it again.”
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