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The Man Behind the Mill (April 01, 2003)


April 1, 2003
By Pulp & Paper Canada

A mere sixty kilometres north of Vancouver takes one to a whole new world, where the glacier-silted waters of the Squamish River meet the Pacific Ocean. Enticing ocean coves, towering cliffs and endle…

A mere sixty kilometres north of Vancouver takes one to a whole new world, where the glacier-silted waters of the Squamish River meet the Pacific Ocean. Enticing ocean coves, towering cliffs and endless nature trails are just some of the sights that border Highway 99 that leads to the town of Squamish. Called the “sea to sky highway”, this route is one of Canada’s most breath taking stretches of ocean-side roadways. This area has most recently been in the headlines, as the region is part of Vancouver’s bid to host the Olympic games. Squamish is also home to Dave Ingram, the mill manager of Western Pulp’s Squamish mill. For the past 12 years (ten as mill manager), Ingram boards a ferry each morning that crosses the Howe Sound making its way to the mill. The 20-minute trip is unique, not just because of its spectacular views, but because it unites the employees as they all travel together to their workplace. Official and casual meetings among the workers are commonplace, according to Ingram. He adds that, “as the ferry approaches the mill, you can actually see how it is operating. It is a fantastic view.”

Dave Ingram, 55, has spent most of his working career involved in the pulp and paper industry, and as the ferry approaches the deep sea port landing of the mill, he always smiles with anticipation. Thirty plus years in the business and as he admits, “a day has not gone by when I wasn’t thrilled to come to work.”

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The Squamish mill produces northern softwood kraft (NBSK) pulp for the manufacture of general paper, fine paper and specialty paper. With North America’s first pressurised peroxide installation, the mill boasts that its operation exceeds existing environmental standards. Ingram calls the operation, “a clean mill”, and his tone reflects how proud he is of that fact. The mill is capable of producing 100% elemental chlorine free (ECF) pulp. In the past ten years, $57 million has been spent on environmental capital projects at the plant.

Western Pulp’s

environment policy

The company maintains an aggressive policy that includes the following initiatives:

Substantial compliance with the requirements of all applicable environmental legislation.

Significant reduction in the levels of chlorinated organics.

Improving timber management processes.

Dave Ingram has seen many technological changes in mill operations, but it is the industry’s present-day relationship with the environment that he refers to as one of the most significant evolutions. Even during financially challenging times, Western Pulp Limited Partnership has continued its commitment to operating the facility in an environmentally responsible manner. Their program covers every aspect of operation, from pollution abatement facilities to quality control. Ingram adds that, “every employee (at the mill) is involved and it is their heightened awareness that makes the difference.”

The Squamish NBSK pulp mill has an annual production capacity of 240,000 air dried metric tonnes, though its has achieved a record high of 256,131 tonnes. Four primary pulp grades are produced, all fully bleached.

Dave Ingram was born in Thunder Bay, ON, when the municipality was still known as Fort William and Port Arthur. The area was home to no less that four pulp and paper mills, so it is not a surprise that Ingram’s relationship with the industry started early in his life. At age 17, he was already spending his summers working in various capacities at the mills. He graduated from Lakehead University in 1972 with a Chemical Engineering Technological diploma, and he has never looked back. “The industry has been very good to me”, says Ingram. As a mill manager, he sees the challenge of his position as motivating every mill worker to “continually improve, all the time.” Jeanne Taylor, environmental supervisor at Squamish calls Ingram, “a manager with a heart.” Even after the re-structuring at the mill in the past three years, production levels have always increased. She adds, “it is a direct result of how he treats people”. Dave Hall, who has spent 38 years working in various mills, concurs and adds, “Ingram always has the time to listen, and treats me as an equal.” From above, CEO and President of Doman Industries Limited, Rick Doman calls Ingram “a key manager in the pulp group. Trust, loyalty and dedication are the three best words to describe Dave.”

“An industry that is like family”

People who work in the paper making industry are a proud group who are uniquely linked in their shared pride for their final product. Late one evening, a worn bearing almost forced the closure of the Squamish operation. In the middle of the night, Dave Ingram contacted a nearby mill, owned by a different company, who offered to help. Within hours, he was on a boat crossing the Howe Sound heading to his mill with the replacement piece that he simply “borrowed”. The operation was not forced to shut down that night. “This is what mill people are all about,” says Ingram.

Dave Ingram has devoted his working life to the paper industry and as he reflects on the present-day Squamish operation, he succinctly says, “good pulp and good people.”#text2#


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