NORTHERN ONTARIO BUSINESS — A well-known Québec-based forestry family is investing $180 million to restart a stalled Wawa oriented strand board (OSB) plant and plans to hire 140 people to staff it.

The Cossette family, which has operated Montreal-headquartered Forex since 1957, announced its foray into Ontario on April 11, the same day the provincial government said it was investing a grant of up to $15 million in the project.

Yolaine Rousseau, the company’s executive vice-president, called the provincial investment “a key first step in financing our project.”

“The Cossette family is very excited about creating jobs in Northern Ontario and increasing our production capacity to better serve North American customers,” Rousseau said in the release.

“I would like to reiterate our commitment to working with the various stakeholders, including the First Nations in the territory. Our team is proud and grateful to the Government of Ontario for recognizing the importance of this project to the province, and we will continue our discussions with the Government of Canada to obtain their support as well.”

Built in the mid-1990s, the Wawa plant produced OSB until 2007.

In 2013, after being acquired by California-based Rentech, the plant was converted to a pellet mill but closed again just four years later after the company declared bankruptcy.

It’s remained idled since then.

Forex said the investments will help the company modernize the plant, hire employees, and “restart OSB production in line with the company’s sustainable forest management practices.”

“We are very excited about the opportunity to establish ourselves in Ontario. We are at the beginning of the adventure and there is still a lot of work to be done before we produce our first panel,” Rousseau said.

“This project will benefit and provide opportunities for the entire population. We will be operating on First Nations territory, and we want to work with all the stakeholders to maximize the regional economic benefits.

“On behalf of the Cossette family, employees, and partners, I would like to thank the Government of Ontario for its support of this promising project for the Northeast region and for all of Ontario.”

The province said its funding is conditional on Forex completing project milestones, finalizing a funding contract between it and the province, and establishing relationships with local Indigenous and municipal communities, as well as local Sustainable Forest Licence holders.

According to the province, once the project is completed, it will generate almost $260 million in GDP and an annual stumpage revenue of over $4.7 million.

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