The buildings on this 136-acre property were first constructed in 1973 by Sklar Furniture. Later, it would be taken over by G.W. Martin and expanded. Tembec would eventually take over Martin's operations here, and the number of jobs would, at one point, peak at 500.
On April 25, 2006, Tembec announced layoffs for approximately 85 employees. It further announced that there would be 7-week shutdown beginning May 12, and would re-open in July with only one shift of approximately 30 people.
The numbers improved somewhat until July, 2008 when the mill was again idled while employing 59 people. Finally, on February 13, 2009, Tembec announced the permanent closure of the mill, blaming market conditions and the financial performance of the mill itself.
After a period of negotiations, the Mattawa Bonfield Economic Development Corporation bought the property from Tembec for $1. It was felt that the company owed the town something for all of the lost employment. The EDC hoped to develop the property as an industrial park, and have at least one major tenant by the winter of 2009 to help offset costs. This didn't happen.
On September 28, 2010, BioSila Mattawa Inc., which numbered The Mattawa -North Bay Algonquin First Nation, and the Antoine First Nation among its shareholders, purchased the property from the EDC for $1. There plan was to create a biomass plant that would produce wood pellets to generate heat and electricity. The carbon-dioxide by-product would be used in a 25-acre greenhouse. These plans all hing on a wood allocation decision that was to take place in early November, 2010.
On May 27, 2011, BioSilla announced they had made an agreement with Toronto-based Atlantic Wind and Solar Inc. to install solar panels on the roof of the plant, and sell the resulting electricity onto the grid. Over the next 20 years, this electricity is expected to power about 100 homes.
The biomass facility is scheduled to be completed by September, 2011, Mattawa Power to be completed by December, 2011, and the food plant to be completed by December, 2011.
Update: February 28, 2012
According to BioSilla's web site, construction of the plant is to start June, 2012 and begin production by July 30, 2012. It is to be the first of five such plants BioSilla will be opening across Canada.
Update: March 28, 2013
According to an article in the North Bay Nugget, the deal with BioSila for this plant has fallen through. The mayor of Mattawa blames the lack of available wood supply.
I drove up to the front gate and had a look at the place, but it's well back from the road, and difficult to see any meaningful detail. I drove down a road bordering the property and found the former employee parking lot and stopped there. When I got out and began preparing my camera gear for the walk around, I was immediately swarmed by blackflies. It was brutal.
Once I got away from the parking lot, however, the number of bugs dropped off substantially, I was able to begin enjoying the look around. Almost everything is locked up tight, and given the future plans for this location and its equipment, that was fine with me. It was still lots of fun wandering the outside taking a few pictures.