Sudbury

Frank Dottori stepping down from White River Forest Products

Frank Dottori admits he'll never retire. He says at the age of 79, he will hand over day-to-day control of his company, White River Forest Products. But he says that's a practical decision to ensure the succession of the company should he "not wake up in the morning".

Tony Wyszkowski named new president of company

Frank Dottori recently stepped down as president and CEO of White River Forest Products. (alumni.engineering.utoronto.ca)

Frank Dottori admits he'll never retire.

He says at the age of 79, he will hand over day-to-day control of his company, White River Forest Products.

But he says that's a practical decision to ensure the succession of the company should he "not wake up in the morning".

After a two-year search, his replacement is Tony Wyszkowski who spent 19 years with Parker Hannifin, a Cleveland-based motion and control technology giant and Fortune 250 global company.

White River Forest Products is the company Dottori founded to bring new life to the defunct Domtar mill in 2013 and in the process revitalized the town of White River. It later acquired idled operations in Hornepayne.

The private venture now consists of the Pic Mobert First Nation, the White River Economic Development Corporation and private investors, including Dottori. 

Retiring again

Of course, Dottori is also famously known as the founder and former CEO of Canadian forestry giant, Tembec, from which he "retired" in 2005.

Dottori says obviously that didn't stick. He says his workaholic behaviour is bred into him. As a young boy on a dairy farm in Timmins who lost his father at a young age, he had to milk the cows day and night, seven days a week. There aren't any cows anymore, but Dottori says he's not about to stop working just because his 80th birthday is on the horizon.

There's also White River Forest Product's next project: a $30 million cross laminated timber mill that he wants to see up and running by next year.

Cross laminated timbers are a relatively new type of construction material that can replace steel structures in high-rise buildings.

Dottori says its time has come, finally.

"Environmentalists and everyone have finally figured out that trees are good and forests are good for the environment and wood is good for the environment and it's economically better for the environment than cement and steel."

Abandoning northern Ontario?

However, it's not a project that is going to operate in northern Ontario. Dottori says the company has narrowed its location to one of two spots in southern Ontario. He says the mill has to go to where the demand is, but also where the skilled workforce resides in large enough numbers. 

That's not to say that Dottori is abandoning northern Ontario. The Timmins son and resident of Temiskaming laments the shift of people to cities and away from the land.

"People have got the ant complex, as I call it, where they all kind of crawl all over each in the city without knowing anybody, but for some reason, I don't know, if it gives them some sense of anonymity, or whatever," he said.

Dottori says he plans to continue to be an advocate for the industry. (Erik White/CBC )

"Living a nice, quiet, peaceful, outdoor, healthy life doesn't seem to be a priority for most people. I don't know if that's a human issue or not, but it's hard to get people to live out of the cities and into the remote areas."

And Dottori says that leads the government to subsidize housing and services in these centres because that's their power base. He says that's a shame because northern Ontario is where the potential and the opportunities are.

Government help needed?

He says he's frustrated that the government hasn't brought in policies to foster the lumber industry and small towns.

"I mean it's incredible that we have to pay a 20 per cent duty to export our product and we see no initiative by either the federal or provincial government to support us," he says.

"We see talk about Alberta oil, we see talk about GM but there are thousands of jobs in northern Ontario dependent on the lumber industry."

Dottori also says the lumber industry is vulnerable to a shutdown if the Canadian dollar rises.

"If the Canadian dollar went up to say 90 cents, I'd say you'd see ... a massive shutdown," he said.

"We need governments to stand up for us."

When asked if he plans to be more of an advocate for the industry, he laughs a little, saying "I've always been mouthy".

 

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