Normiska looking to Ear Falls mill for more bark

About 20 people showed up at the Civic Centre last week to hear an hour-long presentation by Normiska Corp. on progress of its operations here, including word on negotiations with Weyerhaeuser Canada Inc. to process 160,000 cubic yards of bark byproduct on site at Ear Falls.
Normiska president David Graham and chairman John Arnold shared the oral presentation and slide show, which was followed by a question-and-answer period.
“We’ve signed a letter of intent with Weyerhaeuser to increase our volume of bark because we need more than this mill can supply,” said Arnold.
“The demand for our products was higher than what we anticipated,” added Graham, noting bark from the Ear Falls site would be destined for markets in the U.S. Midwest.
“The logistics of that [bark] site are still being investigated,” he remarked.
Normiska already has a 20-year contract with Abitibi-Consolidated Inc. to supply bark from its mill here in Fort Frances.
Meanwhile, operations and spring deliveries of bulk and bagged horticultural grade bark products are underway at Normiska’s plant on McIrvine Road.
Harvesting also began May 3 at its peat bog site in Miscampbell.
Arnold said two of North America’s largest producers and distributors of horticultural soil-less mediums were on-line as buyers for Normiska’s products.
Product distribution is expected to earn the company a modest profit of between $500,000-$750,000 by the end of this year, he added.
In fact, Normiska is scrambling to meet the needs of its U.S. customer base, Graham said, adding that’s because they’re still playing catch-up after having no bark supply during the five-month mill strike last year.
“The mill strike hampered [production],” he admitted, though stressing plant operations were running smoothly with no major glitches.
The one place where the “big scramble” might be causing some adverse effects is at the local level, where little can be done right now to provide the bark byproducts for sale, noted Graham.
Fort Frances CAO Bill Naturkach asked Graham when–and if–that would change.
“Have you considered a storefront presence here or thought about trying to sell at least some [product] locally?” he wondered. “From an awareness point of view . . . to been seen is to be known.
“We feel badly that we haven’t been very extroverted about our company in the district,” replied Graham, confirming Normiska had “grappled” with the need for its product to be more accessible locally.
“We are planning to put [products] down at the [Clover Valley] Farmers’ Market but right now it’s a case of survival [at the plant],” he stressed. “We may not have mushroomed yet but our roots run deep here now.”
Graham also noted Normiska’s plant operation here is directly responsible for 12 jobs, with another six-eight jobs being created indirectly.
And he expected the number of direct jobs to climb to 20 by the end of the summer.