Recent History – 2004-2006
By Brad Lyon, 6 July 2005
Several years of negotiations finally came to fruition on Tuesday, as Greensmart Manufacturing and Greensmart Homes purchased the never-used Louisiana-Pacific veneer plant. Representatives of Greensmart, LP, the province of British Columbia and the City of Dawson Creek signed off on the deal in a ceremony outside the plant at the junction of Highway 2 and Rolla Road.
“It’s been a long time coming” said Len Pettman, the B.C. provincial director for LP. “We’ve worked on this particular project since about 2000, trying to find an alternate use for the facility, after things didn’t work out as originally intended. When the Greensmart opportunity arose, it seemed to be a natural fit. It’s great for the OSB plant we have here, as well.”
Peace River South MLA Blair Lekstrom recalled being involved in discussions when he was still mayor of Dawson Creek, and said he was happy to see things finally resolved.
“The key issue here is about opportunities for our families, for the people that live here,” Lekstrom said. “It’s been a long road. I know a lot of people questioned whether this would ever open, but there was never a doubt in my mind this building was going open, whether it was under Louisiana Pacific, or as we see it today under Greensmart Homes.”
Greensmart is a Calgary-based company that builds energy efficient modular homes. But three of its four directors have roots in the Peace country, and 100 years of combined time living in the region. President Greg Hammond has lived in the district for 33 years, founding partner Terry Moser lived here from 1988-1994, and secretary-treasurer Dan Anderson also lives in the district.
Hammond said he first visualized the possibilities for the LP building when he was driving from Fort St. John to Calgary for a meeting.
“I was on my way to Calgary to one of the early meetings before we set up the manufacturing plant in Calgary, and as I was going by I physically stopped on the highway and got my cell phone out and phoned my partners,” Hammond said. “I said this is something we should keep in the back of our minds.”
Over the next four to six months, Greensmart will be renovating the building to accommodate several aspects of its new operation. Included will be a storage area for jumbo OSB panels, and setting up a manufacturing facility for Greensmart SIP or structurally insulated panels.
As well, discussions are underway to form a joint venture with a modulation company to set up production for the manufacture of modular homes, camp shacks, commercial buildings and other structures. Greensmart also signed a distribution agreement with LP for the jumbo OSB sheets for sale within the Structural Insulated Panel Association (SIPA), of which Greensmart is a member. LP is currently retrofitting the Dawson Creek OSB plant to provide Greensmart with those jumbo panels.
Hammond said that the LP veneer facility is a perfect fit for his company’s plans.
“This building is absolutely set up 100 per cent the way we would have set up the building,” Hammond said, pointing out that the western part of the building will work well for the SIPs as that part of the building can accommodate the storage of the eight foot by 24 foot OSB sheets. “Everything fits, we don’t need to do any modifications to the building.”
The 80,000 square foot eastern part of the building, with its two long runs of space, is projected for building modular structures.
“We have a lot of interest from companies that want to build what we call camp shacks, obviously for the oil patch,” Hammond said. “These two sides here work absolutely perfectly for that.”
Hammond refused to speculate on a total projected workforce, but said that 30 to 40 people alone could be employed in building the SIP panels. As well, other modular home companies employ between 75-150 people, Hammond said.
An opening date has not been finalized, as yet, partly because Greensmart is still making some decisions, according to Alex Wik, executive vice president and general manager of Greensmart.
“If we moved manufacturing facilities from Calgary to here, that would be six months. If we go with a brand new one here, if we can keep the one in Calgary busy plus this one, and we don’t know that as this stage, then it might be a little longer than six months,” Wik said.
“We’re still doing some market studies right now. Volume out, units out is what drives everything,” Wik said. “We don’t have the market studies done yet.”
There is also work that must be done to the building’s site to get it cleaned up and ready for use. Outside work will include reducing the berm along Highway 2, to allow a clearer view. Inside the plant, the concrete floor needs to be finished; a boiler needs to be removed, which will include temporarily dismantling a portion of the building; and LP has some work to do over the next couple of months.
Hammond estimated that clean-up work would probably take at least three months before even beginning to install manufacturing equipment.
“And we’ve got a lot of equipment we’ve got to get in ourselves. Our plant is busy in Calgary, and people are obviously an issue,” Hammond said. While it will take a number of months before operations are underway at the new plant, the City of Dawson Creek will see some immediate benefit from the purchase. As part of the deal, Greensmart is paying for a 2.2 kilometre extension of the sewer line from the airport to the building.
That announcement had Mayor Wayne Dahlen smiling.
“It will be crossing some land that we also have zoned for commercial and light industrial,” Dahlen said of the approximately $500,000 expenditure. “That now allows us to be able to service that property and make some lots available in the future.”