Parker: Cochrane's Spray Lake Sawmills being acquired by B.C. lumber giant West Fraser Timber

Spray Lake Sawmills has been manufacturing forest products for use throughout Canada and abroad since 1943

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West Fraser Timber has entered into an agreement to acquire Spray Lake Sawmills, the family-owned forest products company in Cochrane.

Headquartered in Vancouver, West Fraser was launched by three Ketcham brothers in 1955 as a small planning mill in Quesnell, B.C. Today it has grown to be the largest lumber producer in North America. Following completion of Canadian regulatory reviews and satisfaction of customary conditions, it is expected the transaction will close by year-end.

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“We are excited to welcome Spray Lake Sawmills to the West Fraser family,” said Ray Ferris, president and CEO of West Fraser. “It has an experienced, dedicated group of employees who we will look to further the legacy of this proud mill. With its solid performance, and focus on sustainability and community, the mill is an ideal fit for West Fraser.”

It currently employs around 300 people from Cochrane and the surrounding area.

Spray Lake Sawmills has been manufacturing forest products for use throughout Canada and abroad since 1943.

Founded by brothers Chester and Lloyd Mjolsness, who began their venture in the 1950s using crosscut saws and skids pulled by horses in the Spray Lakes area, the company looked for a permanent location and chose Cochrane in 1969. The permanent facility was built in 1974, and with its presence in the heart of the town, which grew up around it, the mill focused on a high priority of safety and environmental sensitivity.

Chester’s son, Barry Mjolsness, became president and sole owner of the company in 1989. Under his leadership, the sawmill grew its product line to include dimension lumbers, fence posts, treated wood products, livestock bedding, wood chips and bark mulch for agricultural and landscape applications. From the beginning it has worked toward 100 per cent utilization of a tree — there is no waste. Caring for the environment in a responsible manner has always been a key driver.

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Mjolsness has also ensured his company is a keen and proud supporter of the community it resides in. It has given back to organizations such as Boys and Girls Clubs and Scouts Canada, along with its investment in the Spray Lake Sawmills Centre, a 325,000-square-foot multi-use recreation facility that does so much to promote health and wellness in the community.


• Accomplished non-profit leader Jung-Suk Ryu has been appointed the new CEO of Spirit North, the charitable organization led for the past six years by two-time Olympic medallist and Officer of the Order of Canada Beckie Scott. Ryu is former president and CEO of the National accessArts Centre, where he led the successful merger of three disability arts companies and created the country’s first multidisciplinary arts organization. Before joining the NaAC, Ryu held senior roles across a broad range of sectors, including director of external relations at The Banff Centre and director of public affairs with the Canadian National Institute for the Blind. “Ryu is a dynamic, passionate and decisive leader who is a proven performer,” says Larry Greer, chair of the Spirit North board of directors. “It was important to the board to find a leader who can build on the strong foundation and momentum created by Beckie and the team, while working alongside schools, communities and our generous partners across the country. Spirit North is a national charitable organization dedicated to improving health, wellness and education outcomes for Indigenous children and youth through the transforming power of sport and play. Ryu will succeed Scott on Jan. 2, 2024, when she will continue her support in a founder role of Spirit North.

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• Calgary-based communications agency Worthington PR & Story has launched an agency within an agency called North Arrow, a new concept serving not-for-profit organizations and charities. Founder and president Paula Worthington says Noble Arrow will help empower charities, non-profits and changemakers to strengthen their impact by supporting them with vital communications, PR and digital media services, no matter their size or geographic location. “There is so much great work happening in Canada’s non-profit sector but it often doesn’t receive the awareness or impact it deserves,” says Worthington. “They are often overlooked or feel that agency services are out of reach. We are setting out to change that.”

David Parker appears regularly in the Herald. Read his columns online at He can be reached at 403-830-4622 or by email at [email protected]

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