Sinclar Group President Overwhelmed By Community Support
Thursday, May 10, 2012 10:48 AM
Prince George, B.C.- It has been a little over two weeks since the fatal explosion and fire at the Sinclar Group owned Lakeland Sawmill in Prince George. Greg Stewart, President of Sinclar Group Forest Products, says the community’s response to the explosion and fire at the Lakeland Mill, has been overwhelming and the company will continue to do what ever it can to support the families so adversely effected by the tragedy.
Speaking on the Meisner program this morning on CFISFM, Stewart says the core of the business is people, “You can’t have a business without people and the reality of the situation that so many people have been impacted by this disaster, two families in particular have lost their loved ones which is devastating and overwhelming all in itself, and then you think of the injured and the families that have been impacted by that, I don’t think there can be anything more overwhelming than that.”
He spoke of the loss of Alan Little and Glen Roche “The two individuals who lost their lives, Alan Little and Glen Roche, were part of our family, their passing has affected us very much.” He says the company will do whatever it can to ensure the two are remembered.
There are five employees who are still receiving hospital care “There are five who remain in hospital, in intensive care or the burn unit in Victoria and Vancouver . They are showing signs of improvement and we are encouraged by that. We have one employee who remains in hospital in Prince George and reports are that he is improving. Obviously our thoughts remain with all five of those employees and we will do whatever we can to support them and their families.”
Stewart sounded optimistic when talking about the possibility of rebuilding the mill . The mill site is still the subject of investigation by WorkSafe BC and the BC Safety Authority and there is no word on when the site will be released back to the Sinclar Group. “When the time is right, we will get back on that site and we will start looking at what we need to do to move forward and potentially rebuild.”
While rebuilding the mill is not a certainty, Stewart says there are four factors which are favourable to rebuilding, “it’s too early at this point to say for sure that a rebuild will happen, but what I want to say is that there are really four key areas why we think a rebuild is possible. First, it’s about our employee base. I believe that we have the best employees in the industry. Their continued support and loyalty will position us very well to consider that rebuild. Additionally, the company is locally owned, it’s a long time local company, it’s actually our 50th anniversary and obviously this is not the way we want to be celebrating our 50th, but 50 long years of history in the Prince George region with a very strong community focused ownership group, we understand the role that Lakeland played in the community in Prince George in the fabric in which it managed to weave itself within the community . We have access to fibre, and that’s a positive position that we’re in today. The final one, is that we have very strong partnerships. Whether it be with our logging contractors, with the City of Prince George and the Downtown Energy system or the with the University of Northern British Columbia through the hog fuel supply that we have up there we believe that we have a responsibility to this community and obviously Lakeland is one of the key elements to grow the community.”
Stewart says the financial donations that have come from corporations has been inspirational. “Knowing you have that kind of support in the community and within the business community is fantastic and there is a certain degree of confidence that there is something else out there to help support the employees and their families.”
While there have been substantial donations made by business, Stewart says some of the most moving contributions have come through the actions of individuals. He tells the story of an employee who was on vacation at the time of the blast, but whose son, who also worked at the mill, was among the injured. The man was rushing home on a flight from Ontario to be with his son. When he arrived in Vancouver, he learned the next flight to P.G. was full “One of the passengers overheard the conversation, and gave up his seat on the flight so this man could get home sooner. It was a small gesture probably in the eyes of the individual who gave up his seat, but I’ll tell you the people who have heard that story, it actually brought me to tears, it was a great gesture, and it’s the little things like that that make the world of difference”.
Stewart says the event has been tragic, but it has brought out the very best in so many people “You see the compassion that people have displayed, their strength of character. They are great sources of motivation for all of us to help us get through this very difficult time.”
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