With the news this week that longstanding Cochrane company Spray Lake Sawmills was selling out to British Columbia-based company the West Fraser Timber Co., many in the community are left wondering what this means for the future.
The 80-year-old, family-owned company has contributed so much to the economic and social fabric of Cochrane that in many ways its influence, especially on the early development of the town, is incalculable, and deeply intertwined with what Cochrane has become today.
As the community has grown and filled out, Spray Lake Sawmills was always a reassuring presence– a symbol of continuity; with one family, the Mjolsnes, at its heart. Founder Chester Mjolsnes, in fact, just passed away in 2021 at the age of 101 years.
The company has also employed a lot of Cochranites over the years, and is still one of the community’s largest private employers with over 200 people making their living thanks to the company.
Outside of its oversized economic presence, Spray Lake Sawmills has been a major contributor and donor to many community causes close to the heart of Cochranites over the years.
The Sages of Wisdom will tell you that life is change. It is something that must be accepted because there is no way to prevent it. However, it is hoped that new owners, West Fraser Timber Co., will have the same regard for the community the Mjolsnes family has had, and that Spray Lake Sawmills will continue to be a partner in helping to better the community going forward.
The signs on the surface seem somewhat positive in that regard in that West Fraser Timber Company was also founded as a family business, but the fact it is also now a major multinational company and that tends to change the DNA of community connection.
Cochranites will be watching West Fraser Timber Co. with attentive eyes to see how it signals its intentions going forward, and if it intends to put any effort or investment back into the community it now calls home.