Grayson Klassen, is a process controls coordinator, who has been working at Norbord’s 100 Mile location through Gordon Ross Contracting for the past seven years. In order to stay in the Cariboo, Klassen says he will travel for work if that’s what it takes to stay here. Millar Hill photo.

Mill closures: Doing what it takes to stay in the Cariboo

“I came to the Cariboo because I love it here”

The South Cariboo is facing a time of uncertainty, mill workers and contractors are still trying to stay strong.

When Grayson Klassen, a process controls coordinator, who has been working at Norbord’s 100 Mile location through Gordon Ross Contracting, first heard the news, he said it didn’t come as a shock.

“I wasn’t shocked, but it was like now what? What do I do? It was pretty scary, initially,” said Klassen.

Even though he wasn’t shocked, he still felt the need to phone his wife so she could hear it from him first before it broke out.

“We had just bought another house and then all of a sudden, it was like oh crap, I am going to be without a job,” said Klassen. “It was scary. You start thinking about what you’re going to do.”

Klassen doesn’t plan on leaving the Cariboo. In order to keep living here, he said he is willing to travel for work.

Read more: Local business owner predicts major impact following mill closures

“I am lucky because I can do my job anywhere but I want to stay here. I like it here,” said Klassen. “I was able to keep my job, but in order to live here I am now going to have to travel for work.”I will probably be away 60 to 70 per cent of the time and the rest will be spent working from a small office inside my house. My biggest fear is being away all of the time – all of the reasons why I want to stay here is because it’s the Cariboo, I want to be able to enjoy that.”

Everyone is in a different situation and the closures are affecting everyone in their own way.

“I can really only speak for myself, but there is going to be some change,” said Klassen. “There are some guys who are very nervous, some that are worried right up until the point of being bitter. You get this range of emotion. All of these people are going to have to do something. Again, everybody’s situation is different. Some people might be in a position where they could work part-time but there is a lot of people that aren’t in that situation. You know this town if you don’t work for the big three – us (Norbord), West Fraser or the government it can be tough.”

Read more: South Cariboo mill contractors working through a difficult time

According to the press release announcing Norbord’s curtailment, the Cariboo region has been under mounting wood supply pressure for the past decade. The curtailment was a result of a shortage in the wood supply and its high costs.

“If there is no wood, there is no oriented strand board (OSB) and if there is no OSB there is no mill,” said Klassen. “If you were to look at Norbord’s history, mills that have been shut down have restarted. It’s a big corporation but they still have a conscious, they understand the effects of this.”

Klassen’s wife owns a small business here in town. He said the mill closures are going to change the dynamic of people who have a bit of extra cash to support local stores. Instead of spending, many people might start being more conscious of how they are spending and what they are spending their money on.

“It’s a tough thing for everybody,” said Klassen. “I came to the Cariboo because I love it here, I’m not sure what it’s going to look like in a couple of years, but I know it’s going to change.”

Klassen made a point to mention how tough the Cariboo is. He spoke about the fires back in 2017 and how the community has been so resilient.

“As tough as it seems and as dark as it seems right now, it’s going to be okay. We are going to work it out.”

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