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Celebrating 75


Frank Marvin never dreamed that the company he helped build with his father, George Marvin, 75 years ago would be the thriving, efficient, well known and extraordinarily respected entity that it is today.

In 1942 – after Frank was sent north from his hometown of Warroad, Minn., where his family was building an empire both in the USA and Canada – Marvin would soon create a legacy of his own.

“The head office at that time was located in Winnipeg and the primary focus was pulpwood production and the brokering of it,” said Spruce Products Ltd. (SPL) President Ward Perchuk, noting that prior to this, the company was known as Imperial Cedar Company, operating out of southeast Manitoba and Hudson Bay, Sask..”

The company, in the early 1940s, acquired and set up planer operations in Hudson Bay and Bertwell, Sask., and, with the changeover, also then incorporated the name SPL.

“This is where our good friend Dick Walker started his career (in 1949),” Perchuk said.

“The company had some issues when the CCF government was elected in Saskatchewan, monopolizing the forest industry and only allowing companies to get timber from private land or that had been burned.

“This forced SPL into Manitoba where they operated in Wanless, Cranberry, Simonhouse and Flin Flon.”

It was in the 1950s that the company entered the sawmill business at Lake Athapap and Whitefish Lake as well as then in Swan River and Clearwater Lake.

“With the passing of Frank Marvin in 1986, a few years later the head office was transferred here to Swan River,” said Perchuk.

“In 1995, the Clearwater operations were closed and timber rights were transferred and consolidated here, growing into the facility you see here today.”

To celebrate, SPL invited employees, contractors and associates out to the yard north of Swan River last Thursday (July 20) for a celebration barbecue.

“I’ve seen changes in the industry over the past 40 years and I don’t know of many private companies that have been around for 75 years,” Board Chairman Des Gelz told those gathered. “In fact, I can only really think of a few.

“So, you should all be very proud to be associated with a company that has such a unique history.

“Dozens and dozens of mills shut down during the difficult times around 2008 – many permanently,” he continued. “But, we were able to run continuously through. That says a lot about the company, the management and the employees.”

Offering remarks on behalf of the Marvin family was Georgia Marvin, daughter of Frank Marvin, who currently sits on the board of directors in addition to being a company shareholder.

“We grew up in the business and when you live inside of a business you learn a few things: including that you always take care of the business because the business will take care of you,” she said. “That means that you always take care of the people because they, in turn, are the ones who take care of the business.

“We learned very quickly that people matter and all of us have worked in the business – my brother (in various jobs around the mill) and the girls on the cleaning crew.”

Marvin went on to acknowledge the leadership of both Walker and Perchuk within the company and the contributions of all the employees, no matter how small and unrecognized.

“That’s why we are 75 years old and why we are heading for 100,” she concluded.

“We are committed to this company – it has been going a long time and it will continue to go a long time.”

Swan River MP Robert Sopuck and Town of Swan River Mayor Glen McKenzie then offered their congratulations to SPL on the milestone.

The members of the Northern Woodworkers Association concluded the formal program by announcing a $750 donation to revitalize Trail D at the Duck Mountain Forest Interpretive Centre and rename it the SPL 75th Anniversary Trail.


In a year, SPL produces:

• 43 million board feet of lumber

• 54,000 cubic metres of sawmill chips

• 205,000 cubic metres of mobile chips

• 270,000 bags of wood shavings

• 24,000 tonnes of hog fuel

• 750,000 kilograms of wood pellets

• 30,000 cubic metres of tree lengths for post operations

• And, by July 2018, more than 20 million trees will be replanted.