The future of the city’s industrial lands in Cranbrook is coming into focus.
Purchased by Peak Industries last fall for $6 million, the company has revamped operations with the finger joint mill, which is now back up and running, while other parcels of the 100-acre property are being leased by multiple companies for a wide range of business operations and production.
Local elected officials, along with Peak representatives — including owner Brian Fehr — celebrated the announcement during an event on Wednesday morning, as the finger joint plant equipment hummed in operation in the background.
“Very, very, very excited to be a big part of your valley,” said Fehr, a successful entrepreneur who has spent a lifetime in the forestry and manufacturing sectors. “And always, as long as I’m alive, it’ll be about jobs. I believe that some people have a gift and mine is making jobs for people, so really, really proud to be a part of that.”
The newly restarted finger joint plant, formerly operated by C&C Wood Products before the company went bankrupt, currently employs 23 workers and plans are in the works to add a second shift that would add 15 more employees.
The plant manufactures finger joint studs (2×4, 2×6, 2×3) for shipment to Texas, with production at 50,000 board-foot per week. However, the Texas market is ‘insatiable’ and the second shift will ramp up production to 200,000 board-foot per week.
Fehr, who is personally moving to the area, also started a new logging company — Peak Logging — recently spending $2.4 million on equipment, with plans to conduct logging operations in the region.
In addition to the finger joint plan, Steel River Group is leasing land at the north end of the property, and was recently awarded a contract relating to natural gas pipelines in the area owned by FortisBC and TC Energy.
The contract is expected to provide jobs for several years, and Steel River Group is in talks for a long-term arrangement at the industrial property.
Applied Compression, a local company that sells high-end compression equipment, is in preliminary talks to locate permanently on the land, and is currently utilizing the old Tembec shop facility on the southwest corner of the property.
Applied Compression was recently acquired by Xebec Industries and employs 23 in Cranbrook, one in Invermere and three in Calgary.
Glen Transport is also on site, leasing land from Peak Industrial for parking trucks and trailers, and are in discussions for a longer-term relationship.
Fehr told the crowd of dignitaries that he envisions the industrial property will attract and sustain between 200-300 jobs in the future.
Economic activity picking up
Peak Industrial purchased the property last November, after the city had taken ownership in 2018, with plans for development.
Cranbrook Mayor Lee Pratt said the city was excited about the vision for the property when it originally purchased the land from Tembec three years ago, however, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic threw a wrench into budget talks for future development.
“We decided we didn’t really have the resources, the staff and the money to continue the development of it,” said Pratt. “So we decided to sell it and and lucky for us, Brian Fehr stepped up …
“Brian has the same vision that I had and the council had for the development of this, with the jobs and the industries, so it was a good choice for us to partner up with him.”
Bill Bennett, a former MLA representing the East Kootenay, is working as a consultant to Peak Industries. He lauded the city’s efforts to prepare the land for business and entrepreneurial opportunities.
“It was set up for us to move in,” said Bennett. “We wouldn’t be where we are today if the city hadn’t positioned us this way, so it’s been a real good partnership.”
Bennett said Fehr has an entrepreneurial spirit, having acquired the Canal Flats mill, the Galloway mill, the Cranbrook mill site, along with other properties around the province and into the United States.
“I think you can look for more things from Brian and it won’t all be forestry,” Bennett said. “Some of it’s going to be high-tech; he has bit-coin being produced in Canal Flats today, so you’re going to see things like that, you could easily see some sort of green energy project on this site, that’s something else he’s quite interested in. It’s a story that isn’t over yet.”
Fehr also announced he is purchasing a significant 2,200-acre parcel of property located east of Cranbrook.
“Bill Bennett told me to run as far and as fast away from that as I could, so I bought it,” Fehr joked. “I’ve talked to Lee Pratt about it and we look forward to figuring out how to do something cool with the city there.”
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