Our hearts go out to neighbors and friends along the Eastern Seaboard of the U.S. as they face the task of rebuilding lives that have been shattered in the devastation that is Hurricane Sandy. The impact is predictably being felt globally. In lumber markets, the storm is contributing to what was already unseasonably strong demand, at a time of year when industry normally adapts to reduced levels of activity. According to Reuters: “Prices for Western Spruce in the cash market have risen 7.5 percent since last week, according to data from Random Lengths. Traders said the lumber market has been gaining momentum in recent weeks amid promising signs in the (U.S.) housing market, which was at the heart of the financial meltdown in 2008. The Commerce Department said on Tuesday that the U.S. home vacancy rate, which measures empty properties and those for sale, fell to the lowest level in seven years in the third quarter, as demand for housing picked up.” (Full Story here)


The Vancouver Sun reports that 61 years ago today, shareholders met at the Hotel Vancouver to approve the merger of H.R. MacMillan Export Company with Bloedel, Stewart and Welch Ltd., creating MacMillan Bloedel Ltd., the world’s second-largest forestry company at that time. “Merging the companies made MacBlo the dominant force in B.C. forests for decades. The company would eventually boast of $4 billion in assets, and operate around the world… in 1999, it was swallowed up by an even larger company, Weyerhaeuser” (Full Story).

The UBC Library is home to the MacMillan Bloedel fonds. An exhaustive inventory of the archives here indicates 90 m of textual records, 15,000 photographs, and 1,000 maps – from the early 1900’s onward. I consulted my uncle, an amateur historian, as to what “90 m of textual records” means. He advised this literally means that if the documents were lined up side-by-side, 90 meters of written corporate records have been retained.

Logs cut by MacMillan Bloedel’s Copper Canyon Division en route to Osaka, Japan as part of BC Pavilion, Expo 1970.


Just eat it

Today it’s announced that copy paper made mostly from wheat straw is available in Staples stores across Canada (see full story here).
Step Forward paper is made from 80% agricultural waste and 20% wood fibre and is FSC-certified. The company plans to build a wood-free mill in Manitoba to produce a similar product made from 95% wheat straw fibre and 5% flax straw. The product is expected to be “a hit with tree-lovers and environmentally conscious companies.”
Actor Woody Harrelson, “known for his vegan diet and support for anything that involves hemp” is a co-founder and investor in Step Forward paper. He supports making paper from wheat waste because he considers making paper from trees “barbaric”.
While there are many myths and misconceptions about how paper impacts the environment, we’re told Step Forward has the backing of an independent study which found their wheat-based paper to have the smallest environmental impact of all North American copy papers.
Envisioning the next step in which used copy paper holds potential as breakfast cereal is a concept not totally new. Breakfast in connection with recycling wood might be considered eating off-side inventory.. in Terms of the Trade?

Selling Virginity?

Ok let us clarify. Reports today of a 20-year-old Brazilian woman selling her virginity for $780,000 in an online auction have absolutely nothing to do with selling lumber (see full story here). The successful Japanese bidder, one known simply as Natsu, is not to be confused with the buyer who recently submitted a firm offer to buy some of our Dakeryn studs. Offshore policies likely ensured any offers submitted by west coast wholesalers were not in the running. Besides, I’m assured that the ‘virgins wanted’ ads posted around our office are strictly aimed at a search for first-time customers.

The Good Deal

With a hat tip to Ernie Harder’s B&S Theory (stay tuned for future post!) The Good Deal is characterized by many factors. It is seen to be a win-win and fair by all parties. It is underscored with integrity. It is negotiated in good faith and trust. It is a stepping stone to building long term relationships. It appreciates a need for ‘give and take’. It is not afraid of ‘leaving something on the table’. It does not jeopardize long-term benefit for short-term gain. It recognizes that real value includes criteria beyond dollars. It appreciates the impact of success. It encourages well-being, delivers satisfaction for all involved.
We’re thinking about Gary Bettman and the NHL Players Association, although one might even be talking about a lumber transaction. Perhaps Gary and the boys could refer to this link for seven tips that might help them reach a good deal.

Take Our Kids to Work Day

with Evie.. 2012

It all seems a bit too complicated. For starters, I’d need to pack a high chair and diaper bag. And what’s to be learned from a “lumber donkey” (as Sainas likes to call us) anyway?
This year, Wednesday November 7th has been designated as the 18th Annual Take Our Kids to Work Day. We’re told the program is aimed at kids developing appreciation for their parents’ careers and roles in supporting their families. It’s designated to help children understand the importance of staying in school by learning first hand what skills are required in the workplace. We’ve also learned that in Toronto the Canadian Club of Toronto and the Learning Partnership are arranging a Take our Kids to Lunch Day on November 7th as part of the Take our Kids to Work Day.
I can’t speak for the other lumber traders here at Dakeryn, but in my household there sure seems to be a move afoot to encourage a Take Our Kids to Work Day at least once a week – lunches included.

Strange Bedfellows

These are confusing times. In this part of the world, on Canada’s wet coast, we’ve been accused of engaging in politics sometimes out of step with
the rest of the country. Our vast natural resources are always good for a debate about whether they’re being effectively managed, or not. Good thing. We’re reportedly past the peak of beetle-killed wood. Fibre’s king. The government’s ‘action’ plan to find more raises questions.
Now comes word here that a handsome bull elk has been banished from a B.C. Interior ranch, after falling in love with resident cows in heat. Some might fairly ask: what’s that got to do with lumber wholesaling? Such conjugal connections in nature might be seen by some pessimists as representative of supply channels, particularly in the new policy-oriented environment. Some days it’s difficult to detect whose identity more nearly relates to the elk or the cow in the ‘relationship’.

Back to School

While some may be awaiting a statement from Jack Welch regarding the surprisingly strong U.S. housing starts announced today, who knew a  skilled-labour shortage has hit the B.C. forest industry? To address that shortage, The Vancouver Sun reports here that old sawmills are becoming class rooms. “When industry can’t get the skills that they need, then industry needs to think differently and partner with schools,” says Heather Press, manager of recruitment and organizational development at Tolko.

Expanding on the topic of education, Don Tapscott of the Rotman School of Management in Toronto writes here in The Globe and Mail that a new model of pedagogy needs to be embraced by our universities, deeming the present “broadcast model” flawed.  “Unlike their baby-boomer parents, who grew up as passive recipients of television, today’s youth are shaped by interacting with digital tools and online experiences.”  If they are to compete in a global economy Rotman argues, students “need to inquire, not rely on the professor. They need an animated conversation, not a lecture. They need an interactive education, not a broadcast dating back two or three centuries.”

Perhaps it’s not a stretch to draw parallels here, where another Globe article taps into one small company’s creative approach to finding sales talent, hinting at growing demand for the skills to engage: “In our world and in the current sales world, nobody cares about presentations,” says James Palmer, VP Sales and Marketing with the Great Little Box Company Ltd.


Keep on Truckin’

Transportation is a critical aspect of the ‘ wholesale function’ — always has been, always will be. With that in mind, there’s an interesting report here regarding a 2012 study at the University of Tennessee on how logistics involving transportation are examined, with aims of adding/creating value. The study concludes that a “value-creating partnership” with strategic carriers is key for suppliers to differentiate their service. I recall Mike Phillips, President of Hampton Affiliates, alluding to Hampton’s “guaranteed trucking agreements” at the NAWLA regional meeting earlier this year (see review here).

Speaking of traffic, this piece in The Province today tells us that while high tech GPS ”solutions’ may track the comings and goings of big rigs at Vancouver area ports, they don’t resolve the endless bottlenecks truckers contend with here: “Driving a commercial truck and trailer in Greater Vancouver is a nightmare. Not just for the sheer volume of traffic and the road restrictions, but also for the constant road construction that is everywhere.” Perhaps we’ll see a shift to hauling more at night in Vancouver, to alleviate traffic congestion during daytime hours? (Hat tip: Chris Albright, Dakeryn Traffic Manager).

Building Bridges

It’s big news in B.C.  as the “widest bridge in the world” nears completion. We’re told here that “all eyes have turned toward the Fraser River crossing to see if promises have been kept and if taxpayers’ dollars have been worth it.”
Not surprisingly, the political lenses are brought into focus. When it’s reported here that a longtime independent lumber yard in Muncie, Indiana is closing after decades of serving a local community, it’s irresistible to bring politics of imminent election into the discussion (see comments after story). The complexities of resolving societal issues, whether traffic congestion or economic matters, bring into focus a need for ‘building bridges’ between differing points of view.

Monday morning metaphors can be puzzling though.  What can we make of a story in this morning’s Vancouver Province  in which it’s reported that thieves made off with $200,000 worth of bridge girders from a local gated construction compound – for a third time? Sounds like the beginnings of another bridge to nowhere.