Facts, Figures and Faces
July 1, 2004 By Pulp & Paper Canada
This monthly column continues in its quest to profile unique mill people from across canada who have had a significant impact on both their workplace and on the industry as a whole. This month, we travel to newfoundland to the community of gran…
This monthly column continues in its quest to profile unique mill people from across canada who have had a significant impact on both their workplace and on the industry as a whole. This month, we travel to newfoundland to the community of grand falls-windsor where paper-making not only opened up the interior of the province one hundred years ago, but still continues to be a leading industry. We meet scott chalker, a native newfoundlander, who is the mill manager at grand falls. In this very special year, he applauds both the history of the operation, and the present-day abitibi-consolidated core values.
On July 22, 1948, the people of Newfoundland went to the polls and with a vote of 78,323 to 71,334, chose to unite with Canada. On March 31, 1949, the former British possession became the tenth Canadian province. The Liberal Party, which formed the first government under Jospeh R. Smallwood, was to hold power in the province for the next 23 years. Many Brits would have read about Newfoundland’s merger with Canada on newsprint produced in Grand Falls.
“The paper we produce has told many stories over the past 95 years,” said Roger Pike, manager of public relations for Abitibi-Consolidated’s two mills in Newfoundland. “The paper industry was instrumental in opening up the interior of the island, and our mill is proud to be a part of the celebrations marking the 100th anniversary of the founding of the town of Grand Falls.”
This region of Newfoundland is rich in history. In 1768, Lieutenant John Cartwright ascended the Exploits River and named the “Grand Falls”. However, it was not until 1905 that the town of Grand Falls was established. Unlike most communities in Newfoundland in which settlement occurred gradually, Grand Falls came into existence almost overnight. Expansion into new markets led the British Harmsworth family to search for an alternative source of newsprint to feed their publishing empire. In their search for a suitable location for the construction and operation of a pulp and paper mill, brothers Harold and Alfred Harmsworth visited the area surrounding Grand Falls. The site proved to be ideal, as it remains today, with access to rich timber resources, the possibility of hydro-electricity and a nearby deep-water port at Botwood. This potential led to the incorporation of the Anglo-Newfoundland Development Company on January 7, 1905. Established by the Harmsworths, the Company had two major objectives in Grand Falls: to make the finest newsprint in the world and to establish a happy and prosperous community.
“I am truly proud that our mill has not only lived up to this original vision (in the past 100 years), but continues to build on it today,” said Scott Chalker, present-day mill manager of the Grand Falls Division. Interestingly, the essence of Abitibi-Consolidated’s corporate vision today, closely resembles the one established in 1905.
In the early months of 1905, workers from Newfoundland, Britain, Canada, and the United States arrived in the area to begin construction and to help carve out the new town. Initially, only mill employees, along with workers from a few private businesses were permitted to live in Grand Falls, creating a truly one-industry company town. Others moving into the area settled north of the railway line in Crown Land, known in the early days as Grand Falls Station. The mill officially opened on October 9, 1909 and the towns of Grand Falls and what would become Windsor, began to flourish. The actual first roll of newsprint came out of the plant on December 22, 1909.
In 1965, the A.N.D. Company joined the Price Company and became Price (Nfld) Pulp and Paper Ltd. In 1979 the company became Abitibi-Price. In 1997, two of North America’s largest paper companies, Abitibi-Price and Stone Consolidated, merged to form the present-day Abitibi-Consolidated Inc.
Grand Falls’ original economic development, based on pulp and paper, has survived two world wars, a depression, flown three different flags and has continued to produce newsprint since 1909.
Grand Falls-Windsor is located 456 km west of St. John’s and 272 km east of Corner Brook in the Exploits Valley, a vast interior region that encompasses 14,950 square km and is best described as the very heart of Newfoundland. A land of trees with huge stands of spruce, birth and pine covering the region, it is little wonder that Abitibi-Consolidated operates two major mill operations here — the Grand Falls Division and the Stephenville Division.
Chalker, mill manager at Grand Falls for the past two years, is a native Newfoundlander who always maintained a keen interest in the manufacturing sector. As a youngster he grew up with a paper mill nearby. As a young man, with a commerce degree from Memorial University in St. John’s, he first worked at Grand Falls in 1994 for a period of a year and a half. The following years led him to Montreal to Abitibi-Consolidated’s head offices. In 2002, when he was appointed mill manager, he returned to both his home province and to the mill he knew. “I missed the mill environment and the relationships with the community,” Chalker said.
For the community, the month of July is particularly significant since Grand Falls-Windsor acts as host for the Exploits Valley Salmon Festival, an annual celebration that has grown into an international event. Started in 1985 by the Environment Resources Management Association (E.R.M.A.), awareness of the Atlantic salmon, its migrating habits and the related environmental issues are highlighted. In the past, the mill has donated land to E.R.M.A. to help establish salmon ladders and its ongoing policy is to work closely with regulatory agencies to ensure the Exploits River remains productive for the Atlantic salmon. As Chalker said, “We both share the river, and the salmon’s future in the waterway is important to us.”
Having a background in commerce is unusual for a mill manager and herein lies Chalker’s strength as a leader. David Bradbury, technical director and a native Newfoundlander, values Chalker’s integrity and open style, “What he says, he has always done.” This is particularly significant in a mill operation were there are dozens of workers who represent third generations of employment in the same mill.
Roger Pike has worked with 12 mill managers in his career and refers to Chalker as “the manager of the future”. “His relatively young age (37 years) and his genuine style of working with a team approach makes him truly stand out,” Pike explained.
When asked what the highlight of his career has been, Chalker did not hesitate and simply said, “Grand Falls”. He added, “I am incredibly proud of the team that we have here. We look to the future with optimism, and with a collective mission to update some of the older parts of the mill. I believe in giving everybody a mission and a direction that they can follow. It creates a true team spirit.”
Insiders say Chalker is most respected for his personal integrity and for the pride he has for the Grand Falls operation. “I will never forget how passionately he described the mill and the people who work here, at a corporate head office presentation in Montreal,” recalled Bradbury.
After only two years, Scott Chalker has made a mark on the Grand Falls operations. He talks about environmental issues, safety, and production with equal enthusiasm. Returning to Newfoundland has brought a large smile to his face.
The Abitibi-Consolidated Vision
“Be the leading forest products company — supplying the world with papers for communication.”
The Markets of Grand Falls Newsprint
1. Puerto Rico
3. Central & South America
4. United Kingdom
5. Italy, Germany & France
The Abitibi-Consolidated Canadian Newsprint Producers
Newsprint capacity (in thousands of tonnes 2003)
Baie Comeau, QC595
Grand Falls & Stephenville, NF392
Port Alfred, QC282
Iroquois Falls, ON253
|The Abitibi-Consolidated Newfoundland Mills|
|Products||Standard and coloured|
|Newsprint||newsprint, including lightweight (42-57 gm) &|
|high bright newsprint up to 65 brightness|
|Raw Materials||Requires 600,000 m3||498,00 m3 roundwood|
|of fibre||and chips|
|Pulp Content||100% thermo-mechanical||100% TMP pulping|
|Production Capacity||213,000 MT (yearly)||193,00 MT (yearly)|
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