Western Forest Products is spending $30 million — most of it in Nanaimo — to upgrade three Vancouver Island sawmills.

Lee Doney, company chairman, said today at the Duke Point mill: “Our harvesting strategies and continued demand for our western red cedar and specialty lumber products allows us to make the needed strategic capital investment at this time.”

The $30 million is part of a $125-million capital plan by Western Forest Products to become more competitive and line up new markets.

“We recognize we need to continue to invest in our operations to maintain our strong competitive position,” Doney said.

The Duke Point operation is receiving $28 million in improvements to modernize the sawmill and its planer mill. New automatic grading technology will boost productivity and cut production costs.

Another $2 million is being invested in the company’s Chemainus and Ladysmith sawmills. Western Forest Products owns seven sawmills on the Island and two remanufacturing facilities. It ships to 28 countries and has 2,000 employees and works with 1,500 contractors.

Western Forest Products’ headquarters are in Vancouver. It has a long history on the Island, taking on the assets of Doman Industries in 2004. Its mills have a combined production capacity of 1.1 billion board feet.

Premier Christy Clark, also at the announcement, said: “Forestry plays a vital role in Vancouver Island’s diverse economy.

“By making investments and staying competitive, Western Forest Products is ensuring jobs stay right here in Nanaimo — jobs people can depend on to raise a family.”

Steve Thomson, Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, said it is encouraging to see the company invest in the future of the forest industry.