'We're like country music. We're here to stay': Cautious optimism in The Pas a year after paper mill saved
Future looking up after 2016 sale of Tolko Industries mill, which was set for closure
Ask The Pas, Man., mayor Jim Scott what the future of his town was a mere 18 months ago and he would have told you to shut the door and turn out the lights if you were the last one to leave.
"It's really really turned around tremendously," he told CBC News on Monday. "There's a couple of naysayers, that's OK."
Driving though town, there are still scars from the uncertainty — some businesses downtown are boarded up; others have paper covering the windows. The charred remains of a restaurant that caught fire remind residents of days gone past. But Scott says there's a renewed sense of hope in the town's economy. And he says things are looking up.
"We need people," he said. "We need people and those people need to be able to buy homes."
Scott said 30 residential lots were sold earlier this month. Priced at $1,000 each, buyers have 24 months to build a new home on the lot. He hopes the new builds spur new life in the town and attract people to fill shortages in healthcare and other sectors.
Gary Morrish also sees the renewed optimism — and remembers the uncertainty of two years ago.
"When the announcement was there front and centre that they were going to close the place … yeah that was very concerning," he said over a coffee at a local café.
"I hang around the grocery store even though I have sold it," he said. "There's a good number of people that I know on a first-name basis and there is a lot of optimism and a lot of positive feeling about the way things have gone."
But the optimism, for him, is cautious.
"We can't put all of our marbles in the mills basket," he said, adding the town could use another major industry or growth in several small ones. And young people.
"It's just a great place to grow up and I love the scenery here and the people around town," the avid hunter and fisher said. "We have so many things that go on in this community."
For Scott, it's that optimism that he believes will help keep his town afloat.
"I'm pretty excited," he said. "Given everything that's been thrown at it … we see ourselves as a growing community, despite everything."
"We're like country music," said Morrish. We're here to stay."