Castlegar to get new $35 million engineered wood plant

New engineered wood product plant adds value, jobs without needing more timber

Kalesnikoff Lumber produces lamstock for products like glulam beams, pictured here, and plans to expanded into cross laminated timber. | Kalesnikoff Lumber

A family-owned business in Castlegar is investing $35 million in a new engineered wood manufacturing plant that will add 50 new jobs, but which won’t need any more timber than it already consumes at its existing sawmill and manufacturing plant.

Kalesnikoff Lumber has broken ground on a new plant that will make cross laminated timber (CLT) and glulam beams, which are used in tall wood building construction and other types of “mass timber” construction.

The company made the announcement last week, just one day after the provincial government happened to announce new building code changes that will allow for buildings up to 12 storeys to be built of wood.

“It was great timing to have it be announced essentially the day before our announcement,” Chris Kalesnikoff, chief operating officer for Kalesnikoff Lumber, told Business in Vancouver. “Coincidental for sure, but we embrace that.”

The company hopes to have the new plant in Castlegar in operation by the end of the year. It will build engineered wood products similar to those made by Structurlam Products Ltd. in Penticton. The new plant will bring the company’s headcount up from 150 to 200.

“They’re very high-end operational type jobs,” Kalesnikoff said.

With a long-term decline in the annual allowable cut in B.C., both the NDP and previous Liberal governments have been trying to promote more value-added wood manufacturing in order to maximize the use of B.C. timber.

The new CLT and glulam plant definitely fits the value-added category because it doesn’t actually require any more timber than the company currently consumes at its existing sawmill and manufacturing plant, where it makes a product called “lamstock” for other engineered wood product manufacturers like Structurlam.

The company already produces lamstock for other engineered wood manufacturers to produce large engineered wood products. Now the company will be making those final products itself.

“We realize that the fibre supply that’s available to us isn’t going to be growing,” Kalesnikoff said. “Our focus will be to consume our wood further downstream. So this growth is purely out of adding value to our current wood basket. This growth does not require any additional timber harvesting.

“This is a great natural progression for our business. We’ve produced lamstock for large beam customers such as Structurlam for the past 20-plus years, so it’s a natural progression for us to actually build the product now.”

Governments in North America and Europe have been promoting tall wood construction as a low-carbon alternative to steel and concrete. Wood not sequesters carbon, it also displaces concrete and steel, which are both carbon intensive.

“The exciting thing about CLT and mass timber in general, is that it is expanding globally," Kalesnikoff said. "North America is really the growing market place. So we’re really excited to see British Columbia really embrace this product."