Nearly 20 per cent of B.C.’s lumber production capacity in 2019 was in the Nechako, according to a recently released report by the BC Council of Forest Industries (COFI).
The study—Contributing to a Better B.C: 2019 Forest Industry Economic Impact Study— released April 7, measured the economic impact of the forest industry across the province.
It confirmed the sector had supported more than 100,000 jobs in 2019, generating more than $13 billion in GDP and more than $8 billion in wages, salaries, and benefits. The industry contributed over $4 billion in government revenue to support services including health and education.
Vanderhoof Mayor Gerry Thiessen said the study was “encouraging”.
“Vanderhoof has always been known for its people, that work incredibly hard, and are very industrious,” he said.
“What has been so neat to be involved in Vanderhoof, though, is that people have embraced technology and used their understanding of the forest industry, and we have seen some huge opportunities dealt by local people in our community.”
Some of those opportunities Thiessen pointed to are manufacturers who have worked with technology firms and are now building things such as logging trailers or sawmills that are going to countries as far away as Brazil and the southeast United States.
In 2019, Nechako’s 11 lumber mills, five pellet plants and one utility pole producer supported 3,650 jobs, providing $375.7 million in wages and generating $557.1 million in GDP.
With forestry the backbone of Vanderhoof for the last 80 years, Thiessen said he believes forestry has been their past and present, and will be their future.
He however, also said, “Those days where my boss got me from my math 12 exam and took me to the bush and put me on a skidder and said there you go, you’re on your way—-those days are gone.”
“The technology and machines and operations are just so more sophisticated…Certainly, there will be fewer jobs in some sectors, but as we see in some other areas, there will be greater jobs.”
Thiessen said that direction is already being seen as companies become more interested and concerned about environmental stewardship.
Moving forward, he said there needs to be more diligent interaction with First Nations and other stakeholders, as they work together as one unit.
Thiessen added it was good to attend COFI’s Annual Convention, which was virtually held Thursday, April 8, and featured comment from forestry companies and leaders including Canada’s Ambassador to the United States.
“We saw things looking quite good in January of 2020, and then when COVID hit everything dropped, only to see six weeks later things start to change where we are today, and somehow as a mayor you have to build a stable community that cares and loves and isn’t overwhelmed by these giant fluctuations,” he said.
“So there are challenges but thankfully, I was given the opportunity to be involved in this and we’ll go forward from there.”