VICTORIA -- The owners of a Port Alberni paper mill say a major new investment in the facility reflects confidence in British Columbia’s forestry sector.

Paper Excellence says it will spend $13 million to upgrade the mid-Island mill as it prepares to produce food-grade papers used by restaurants and food preparation companies.

The company says the investment will remove production bottlenecks and upgrade a pair of paper machines at the facility.

"With help from the leadership of B.C.’s government, we are very excited to invest in a winning project like this at Port Alberni," said Patrick Corriveau with Paper Excellence. "With the mill’s best-in-class papermakers and the ability to make even more of these new food grades, we’re confident in the Port Alberni mill’s secure and long-term future."

B.C.’s Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations says the provincial government welcomes the new investment at the mill, which employs approximately 300 people.

“A thriving and diverse forest sector with sustainable jobs is a key part of B.C.’s economic recovery from COVID-19 and beyond,” said Katrine Conroy.

Mid Island-Pacific Rim MLA Josie Osborne said the investment in the mill “contributes to stability and security for the local families whose livelihoods depend on it.”

Paper Excellence says it is preparing to begin the initial engineering and procurement phases of the upgrade. The work is expected to be completed in the latter half of next year.