One Client's Story: Mackenzie Pulp Mill

MacKenzie is a small forestry town about 180 kilometres north of Prince George. For forty years, the backbone of the town was the Mackenzie pulp mill. However, in 2008, its owner became insolvent and the mill that employed hundreds of local people, shut down.

The town was devastated. Not only did people who worked for the mill lose their jobs, local sawmills that sold chips from their operations to the mill and other industries that relied on the mill also ceased operating – and Mackenzie began to die.

“The town was on its last legs; people were leaving, school enrolment was collapsing and local businesses were closing”, says Jim Titerle of Miller Titerle + Company.

Local Heroes

If a mill is left unheated over a northern BC winter, it deteriorates rapidly to the point that it can’t be started up again – it’s only good for scrap.

Knowing this, a few of the mill’s former employees got together to keep the mill’s boiler running over the winter. They did it because they knew their jobs and their town’s future depended on it. They salvaged empty oil drums, delivered to them to the oil distributer for the return of a small deposit, used that money to buy fuel for a front end loader and then used the front end loader to deliver wood chips to fuel the mill’s boiler – all without pay.

“It was heroic – these unsung heroes saved the mill and their town,” says Jim. “They knew how critical it was to the future of Mackenzie.”

Making the Deal

Paper Excellence Canada Holdings Corporation saw an opportunity that no one else in the pulp industry saw. Paper Excellence engaged MT+Co. and Mike Martin, a consultant with Singapore-based Ntan Consulting, to help them make a deal that would help bring the mill back to life.

To many, there were insurmountable hurdles to overcome before closing. Support from the local First Nation needed to be obtained. A unique and innovative deal to secure fibre for the mill had to be worked out with the First Nation and the provincial government. A new collective agreement had to be negotiated with the union. Debts of the former owner to the provincial and local governments had to be settled.

Paper Excellence needed a law firm that was able to help them navigate through all of these issues. MT+Co. had the experience, stamina, persistence and creativity to bring it all together. “There was a lot of stress surrounding the deal, but Jim and his team were on top of everything,” says Mike.

Why MT+Co.?

So why did Paper Excellence choose Miller Titerle + Company to represent them? Why did they feel comfortable trusting what was then a new Vancouver business law firm?

“They recognized that we had the expertise and the relationships to make this happen. They liked our multidisciplinary approach with lawyers bringing expertise from different industries to the table. They knew the track record of our lawyers and they realized they would get better service with us,” says Rob Miller of MT+Co. “Paper Excellence was one of our first clients, and they confirmed our gut sense that there is an opportunity to attract big clients to a smaller, more values-driven law firm. They are a major pulp company and they had confidence in our ability to close this deal. They liked our commitment to them and their interests and our value proposition.”

Like-Minded People

“I have worked with lawyers from around the world, and the Miller Titerle people I worked with were very different than most lawyers I’ve dealt with,” notes Mike. “They are all dedicated and work extremely hard for their clients, and they have a great sense of humour. I don’t think we could have found a better group to work with anywhere, and I can’t imagine using a different firm if we had the opportunity to do it over again. They were instrumental in getting the deal across the finish line, with the added bonus that they made the whole process enjoyable for me and the whole Paper Excellence team. We all felt good that we were bringing the mill back to life.”

Jim adds, “Our passion is to help people do good things. It goes well beyond the satisfaction of closing a deal. It involves partnering with responsible businesses that are helping build communities.”

There were a lot of tears at the press conference announcing the completion of the transaction. Everyone – provincial and local government officials, union representatives, workers and their families – all knew this would result in the resurrection of Mackenzie, and MT+Co. was very proud to have played a role in helping that to happen.

To learn more about what we can do to assist with your projects, please contact Jim Titerle.