Kevin Paradis has been working as a logger and in mills for much of his life, and now he’s overseeing one of the largest in northern Maine’s Route 11 forestry cluster.
Paradis started the job of plant manager at the Maibec softwood lumber mill in Masardis in July. So far, “it’s going good,” said Paradis, who’s originally from Portage. “It’s kind of a learning experience.”
With two shifts running and about 145 employees, the Maibec mill is one of the busiest in northern Maine, taking spruce and fir from within 75 miles and producing up to 100 million board feet per year of dimensional lumber and a number of value-added products. The mill is about two years into its ownership by Maibec, a family-owned lumber company that purchased the sawmill from Fraser Timber.
Paradis and his family logging business used to sell spruce and fir to Fraser’s mills, before the company entered Chapter 11 bankruptcy following the Great Recession and sold to Maibec. In the early 2000s, Paradis transitioned to working on the other side of the forestry business, joining the Columbia Forest Products veneer mill in Presque Isle as a night shift leader and eventually becoming safety coordinator. Last year, he took an offer to manage Columbia’s mill in Newport, Vermont, but returned to northern Maine after less than a year to take the opportunity at Maibec.
The purchase of the Fraser mill marked Maibec’s first lumber mill in the U.S. Maibec’s Quebec production facilities are in St. Pamphile, about 35 miles west of Allagash, and Saint-Theophile de Beauce, across the border from Jackman, and the company also owns a mill in in Balmoral, New Brunswick.
“When I was a logger, we also used to sell Maibec logs to their St. Pamphile mill. They were very up front,” Paradis said. “They are committed to the Ashland area for the long term,” he said, mentioning a North Maine Woods access road that the company is helping open for loggers.
Also, “they’re a big believer in value-added products,” he said. Maibec is North America’s largest producer of Eastern white cedar shingles and has continued to enjoy demand for natural and stained shingles.
The U.S. lumber market has rebounded from the recession, but a Canadian-U.S. lumber trade dispute continues to hang over the industry.
In late November, a U.S. lumber coalition petitioned the U.S. International Trade Commission to impose duties on Canadian lumber, following the expiration of a nine-year U.S.-Canada agreement and a failure to craft a deal allowing tariff-free lumber imports from Canada. The U.S. lumber industry argues that the Canadian government unfairly subsidizes Canadian lumber companies with access to government-owned forests that allow Canadian lumber to be sold in the U.S. — $4.4 billion of it last year — at cheaper prices than regional U.S. producers.
While antidumping duty and countervailing duty investigations into imports continue, the U.S. International Trade Commission on Jan. 6 made a preliminary finding of injury from certain softwood lumber products from Canada. The dispute in the past has resulted in the U.S. imposing billions of dollars in tariffs on building products.
As a Maine mill serving U.S. markets owned by a Canadian company, Maibec is in a unique situation. The Canadian companies with the most at stake are on the West Coast, but Paradis said he is following the issue because it could “change dynamics” for the Masardis mill.
“We’re unsure,” he said. “It depends what the tariffs are and the Canadian exchange rate.”