More on mill closures

Dear editor:
Back on Dec. 21, I wrote a letter to you entitled “Mill Closures: Threat or Opportunity?”
The letter was a challenge to Fort Frances residents, Abitibi-Consolidated management, and union workers alike to consider a win/win outcome and work together to keep our mill in production and Fort Frances a great place to live (you can find the letter online at
I received a great deal of feedback on that letter, the most common response being “good letter, but what can I do to keep our mill open.”
Another common response was that global competition, currency exchange, energy prices, and government policies were to blame. And that the Fort Frances mill is special because of the type of paper it produces. And lastly, that I’m dreaming if I think the union workers will ever seek an alliance with local management.
In an attempt to learn more about the situation, I found the “powers that be” less responsive. My e-mail messages to three Abitibi-Consolidated executives went unanswered, as did my phone message and e-mail to local MPP Howard Hampton’s office.
However, with pulp and paper production closures in Kenora, Dryden, just down the road from me in Squamish (B.C.), and elsewhere in Canada, I still think it’s reasonable to consider that the mill in Fort Frances could be closed, too.
And it’s clear to me that local management and union workers alike would be out of work in the event our mill does close.
But what does the average Fort resident have to lose? Why should you care? Well, for starters, consider your biggest investment, your home. If our mill were to close, the employees of our town’s largest employer would be forced to move out of Fort Frances to find work.
Whether you plan to stick around or not after a mill closure, the value of your home would plummet. And those forced to move out of town to find work would have an awful time trying to find buyers, which is why everyone’s home value would fall as desperate sellers continue dropping their asking prices to fire sale levels and taking the whole market with it.
And despite the dogma the last few years that “real estate always goes up,” this clearly is not true if you examine historical data. And I can assure you that it’s a buyer’s market in Kenora after their mill closure.
And just because none of your immediate family members work in the mill doesn’t mean your livelihoods would be unaffected. I expect the majority of local businesses would fail without the mill—sending more people out of work and home prices even lower. Eventually schools, medical, and other services would be affected.
Not a pretty picture, I know. Personally, I prefer to look at things optimistically. The only purpose of mentioning any of this is to clearly paint the picture as to why we all have a stake in keeping our mill up and running.
So what can be done to keep the Fort Frances mill in operation? That’s a great question. And a question I think we all should be considering—and acting upon the solutions that surface.
Perhaps there are areas of wasted resources within the mill operation that need to be addressed. Perhaps an “open book” policy would help everyone in the organization identify these areas.
Perhaps Fort residents could co-ordinate a publicity stunt to raise investor awareness for Abitibi. Have you ever watched ROBTV or read the financial section of the Globe and Mail? BORING!
The financial media is hurting for a good story to tell. What if Fort Frances became the Green Bay Packers of the paper industry? Or maybe there’s another “green” angle to take relating to the environment.
I was sure wishing my company was publicly-traded a few weeks ago when we were all over the national news with our website story.
A weekend website project resulted in us being featured on CBC, CTV, all the major city papers, radio stations, and MSN site of the day. And all that exposure didn’t cost us a dime.
And how about sales? I’m sure there are some creative ideas that could stimulate sales. I notice the Fort Frances Times proudly displays that it’s printed on Abitibi-Consolidated paper. Who else can we convince to use our product?
It’s not unlikely that someone in Fort Frances is within two-three degrees of separation from a publisher. Or that a concerted effort might persuade a politically-correct publisher to switch to our genuine Canadian paper.
Or that persistent follow-up with all the major publishers could result in Abitibi getting a new contract the next time one is shopping.
Or maybe the carnage is over. Maybe with all the mill closures, there’s enough production off the market that we have nothing to worry about. Maybe our mill IS different than all the rest.
Maybe we should just go with the flow and whatever happens, happens.
I think it’s clear we all have a stake in the mill staying open and Fort Frances remaining a great town. Therefore, I think the least we all can do is set this positive outcome as our intention.
Dr. Wayne Dyer recently released an excellent book entitled, “The Power of Intention.” If you’re still unsure what you can do, I suggest picking up this book (or doing whatever you believe in) to help keep a positive attitude and influence our desired outcome.
And for those of you who feel inspired to take further action, good on you. Take the ball and run. Play to win and keep us posted. We’re all on the same team.
I really do believe we can all contribute to keeping our mill open and Fort France a great town. But then again, “What the Bleep Do I Know?”
Sincerely and
with respect,
Craig Brockie, Founder,
The Brockie Wellness Center
and Defining Presence
Marketing Group (DPMG)