Business

Prince Rupert's role in B.C.'s forest industry

The Coast Tsimshian Resources log yard in the industrial park is always busy. - File photo
The Coast Tsimshian Resources log yard in the industrial park is always busy.
— image credit: File photo

The forest industry is vital to Canada's economy, earning $24 billion in gross domestic product in 2012 and being one of the nation's top five contributors to trade.

In Prince Rupert, two forestry-related operations have been generating money to support Prince Rupert families and the Canadian economy by shipping Canadian product overseas.

The Lax Kw'alaams First Nation enterprise Coast Tsimshian Resources LP began harvesting and shipping lumber in Prince Rupert a number of years ago after successfully operating a multifaceted forestry operation in Terrace, an operation that started with nothing.

"When the Skeena Cellulose sawmill went bankrupt, nobody else wanted those timber assets," Wayne Drury, CEO of Coast Tsimshian Resources, said.

"Lax Kw'alaams jumped in because we knew we could make a business of it if it was operated differently."

Since beginning business in Prince Rupert, Coast Tsimshian Resources has harvested and shipped a historical average of 375,000 cubic metres per year. The lumber being shipped overseas comes from the company's forestry operations in the Terrace and Prince Rupert area.

In 2012 the operation's volumes were down, which Drury said was because the Chinese market was in decline and because the Canadian dollar was high. But Drury said the market has been improving this year.

"Our numbers this year are going to be pretty close to what our historical average is," he said, adding  in 2013 about 150,000 cubic metres of lumber has been harvested and shipped to date.

Drury said while it was Lax Kw'alaams that took the initiative and opportunity to rebuild the forest economy in the northwest, other companies and groups also stepped up to help the industry grow in the region.

"Operators in the northwest ... support each other. We don't look at each other as competitors, we look actually think we compliment each other," Drury said.

"We've all got one goal in mind, and that's to continue to build the industry in the north west."

Quickload's lumber stuffing operations have also been seeing significant improvements since purchasing the operation in 2008.

Kristina De Araujo, Quickload's director of corporate affairs, said during the company's first year there were only three employees at the lumber stuffing enterprise, with between 30 and 40 containers being filled per week.

Things got worse before they got better. Shortly after Quickload purchased the operation, the recession hit and volumes dropped to about 25 containers per week.

But in 2010 the economy started to bounce back, with De Araujo saying the end of the first quarter saw significant increases, moving up to 40 then 60. An increase in clients has meant Quickload has tripled those numbers, now loading approximately 300 containers per week of northern B.C. lumber. Additionally, Quickload employs about 40 people.

De Araujo said Quickload has invested heavily into equipment to ensure its customers have the best service possible in the north.

In 2011 the company began operating the world’s first C Loader to fill containers. The C Loader is the only lumber-stuffing machinery made to fill product into containers at maximum efficiency while minimizing product damage.

“It’s the only one in the world, so that’s something Prince Rupert can be proud of,” De Araujo said, adding the business is continuing to prepare for growth and expansion.

Quickload is planning to launch a truck reservation system some time this year, or in 2014, which will provide better planning for Quickload and truck drivers delivering product. The system will mean truckers can reserve a drop off time and avoid long waiting periods.

“We’re constantly looking ahead and making sure we have everything in place to get ready for the next wave, whenever that may come,” she said.

Each year Canada holds National Forest Week to generate awareness and recognize the importance of Canada’s forests to the nation, whether it be its importance to the economy, or for recreational purposes.  This year, National Forest Week is Sept. 23-29.

“Whether providing great economic benefits-accounting for over 53,000 direct jobs supporting families all around the province, or recreational opportunities for residents and visitors, our forests play a significant role in local communities,” Steve Thomson, B.C.’s minister of forests, lands and natural resource operations, said in a statement.

This year’s National Forestry Week theme is Healthy Forests-Healthy Communities.

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