The end game in Fort Frances: Northwestern Ontario town looks to uncertain future without pulp and paper.

Author:Ross, Ian
 
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Hope is rapidly fading on the Town of Fort Frances ever seeing a return to production on its shuttered pulp and paper mill.

But feisty Mayor June Caul feels a victory of sorts has been won by the northwestern Ontario community of 7,700 in having greater control on how the town's largest industrial asset will be used and a future say in how local forests will be managed.

With only weeks to go before a late December deadline to end a 90-day window to showcase the mill buildings and extensive properties to outside business interests --mutually agreed upon between the town and Riversedge Developments --Caul had come to the realization that the town's fight to return their historic mill to full manufacturing was likely dead.

A prominent local businessman had contacted the Town of Fort Frances with a proposal for a small-scale operation in one of the buildings. But the town's champion, Rainy River Packaging, and the promise of returning the hundreds of jobs lost in 2014, had backed away.

"Even though it's been a tough and stressful year, I feel like we were successful in at least getting something happening with this property here," said Caul.

"Leaving it sit for another, god knows how many years, wasn't going to bring us any taxes. At least we're getting something accomplished.

"It might not be what we're hoping, but it's something, and we're working with the people who are involved, and they're not going to pull the wool over our eyes as in other places."

Caul said an undisclosed entrepreneur, with multiple area interests, had stepped forward with a proposal for a value-added forestry-related business startup, but nothing is close to being finalized.

The project would not be close to the scale of the former Resolute Forest Products operation, she said, estimating the potential jobs at around 40.

"It's looking pretty positive with this company but they would only use a small portion of the mill," and they would not use any of the remaining papermaking machines Caul said.

She felt confident this proponent had the ability and financial wherewithal to bring something to fruition.

It would require tapping into the local Crown wood supply in the Crossroute Forest but wouldn't infringe on what Resolute Forest Products already harvests from the unit.

After an acrimonious relationship with Montreal-based papermaker Resolute over its alleged good faith attempts to sell the mill to new suitors, the municipality was determined not to let the mill site...

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