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St. Thomas to be hub of Ontario's mass timber revolution

Queen’s Park invests in first cross-laminated timber factory in southwestern Ontario

Tembec founder Frank Dottori is fronting the establishment of Ontario’s first cross-laminated timber (CLT) plant in southwestern Ontario.

St. Thomas will be the site for a $32-million fully-automated manufacturing plant that will create more than 60 jobs.

In a news release, the Ontario government announced a contribution of close to $5 million for the facility, drawn from its Forestry Growth Fund.

The plant will be operated by Element5, a Toronto and Montreal-based design, engineering and fabrication group specializing in mass timber construction.

Last January, Dottori, owner of WRC Timber, stepped down from running the day-to-day operations at his sawmills in White River and Hornepayne to work with Element5 in pursuing a CLT plant for Ontario. 

The potential sites they were considering were to be close to customers and the major homebuilding and construction markets of southern Ontario. 

“This one would probably be the biggest industrial fabricator of CLT in North America," said Dottori last winter in an interview with Northern Ontario Business. The aim was to have the CLT plant in operation by August 2020.

Element5 has operated a CLT factory in Ripon, Que. since 2017. With recent facility upgrades, they are on track to be able to produce 10,000 cubic metres of CLT and Glulam (glue laminated timber) per year.

"This is a significant investment in the Ontario forestry industry, job creation, housing, innovation and technology, and the environment in the form of green building practices," said Dottori in an Ontario government news release. 

"Through their generous support, Ontario, and specifically St. Thomas, are well poised to become the centre of the mass timber industry in North America."

The Ontario government said it wants to increase the use of timber in the homebuilding industry and promote the use of an environmentally-friendly product in construction and infrastructure projects in both Canada and the U.S.

"I'm pleased to support Element5's work to create cost-effective and environmentally friendly building materials from sustainable renewable resources," said Environment, Conservation and Park Minister Jeff Yurek, the MPP for Elgin-Middlesex-London.

"This investment will reduce carbon dioxide emissions and create jobs right here in Ontario and in St. Thomas, contributing to our goal of balancing a healthy environment and healthy economy."

Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Steve Clark said the plant is part of the government’s plan to deliver more housing and more choice.

"Mass timber construction will be an important innovation that can help bring housing to market faster, while still meeting the high standards in the Ontario Building Code to protect public health and safety.”