Recent mill closures in the South Cariboo are hitting contractors and smaller businesses alike hard – leaving them in a state of uncertainty for their future.
Debra Maclean and her husband Rod Dillman, who co-own Rod Dillman Contracting are apart of those being affected by the indefinite curtailment of Norbord’s 100 Mile House mill location.
“We have been working for them for years,” said Maclean. “We were bidding on timber sales performing stump-to-dump logging and Norbord had been issuing some of our contract work.”
The couple started their business in the South Cariboo 14 years ago with one machine and have built it up ever since. Up until now, their company had consisted of 25 full-time employees and about five sub-contractors.
“We had 25 employees and in the last week I had to lay off 10 guys and our guys are like our family – it devastated Rod and I,” said Maclean. “It’s heartbreaking.”
The curtailment of 100 Mile’s Norbord location came to them as a shock, as it did for many. Maclean said Dillman was first made aware of the curtailment from a text message that one of the logging truck drivers had sent.
“After we heard it from the truck driver, one of the fellows at Norbord had tried to get a hold of Rod, who at the time missed the call,” said Maclean. “Rod phoned him back and he was told (of the curtailment) and then, of course, the following day we were sent an email saying the contract was void – so that’s where we are now.”
In order to keep their business running, the couple is now searching for alternative markets where they can send loads.
“For us to have to sit down and figure out how we are going to do this and be able to get through this – we had no choice but to reduce our staff,” said Maclean. “Obviously, we need the revenue to cover our expenses and we are reducing those expenses. It’s crushing, most of our staff have families and we can’t help them and that devastates me. I don’t see the government stepping in and helping them. It blows my mind that the government can offer help to the mill workers, as they should, but they forget about the contractors and their crews.”
Maclean said it’s not just the mill workers and contractors that are going to be affected, but every other business that plays a significant role in the industry.
“The businesses that we buy our fluids and parts, we aren’t purchasing much,” said Maclean. “If we need it, we will go get it but before we were having them stock us up but we can’t do that now. It’s trickling downhill for all of us. We log for a lot of the ranchers around here and the wood is just sitting there and that’s hard too because don’t want to let those people down … It’s terrible.”
In past years, the company has been able to help out in the community, but with the loss of jobs and people having to cut back their spending, those generosities could be hard to come by in the following months. Maclean said that it’s not just going to affect the industry but the community as a whole.
“This was a shock. We didn’t have a choice in this matter, it was just sprung on us,” said Maclean. “We are left having to function day by day.”
Despite the uncertainty during this time, Maclean is hopeful and plans to hang on and do their best with what they’ve got.
“We are a strong company and are not going away.”