Opening Day – Wood Innovation and Design Centre

Robert van Adrichem, VP External Relations at the University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC), emailed to confirm the Wood Innovation and Design Centre in Prince George will officially open this afternoon. UNBC President Daniel J. Weeks, Minister Shirley Bond, and architect Michael Green will be among the VIPs in attendance.

Featuring the inventive use of wood solutions to solve every-day design and construction challenges, the centre will be the home of UNBC’s proposed new graduate degrees in Engineering that will have a focus on wood. At eight stories, the building is one of the tallest buildings made of wood on the planet. A link to images will be posted shortly after the opening at the UNBC homepage here.

Retiring Friend

Through relationships built over time in the B.C. Wholesale Lumber Association as well as the North American Wholesale Lumber Association, I’ve come to recognize that competitors in our industry can develop valued friendships – even before retirement. When Tom Carlson, longtime respected industry associate and friend announced his retirement this year I was pleased that he accepted my invitation to submit a guest blogpost this week. Tom’s understanding of lumber types was shaped early on in the woods of Vancouver Island. A good guy retires from a successful career in lumber wholesale distribution when he leaves his present post as credit manager at Taiga in December. But before he goes, he tells us:

1950 – With a crash and a shudder as a youngster I was introduced to the forestry business as the spar tree fell onto the general store a few short steps from our shack at the Leechtown lumber mill. Sitting on my mother’s hip I surveyed the damage and dreamed of the chocolate bars inside. My father captured the moment in the rare photo of the day below. It was a life of rides on steam locomotives, fresh venison, coal oil lamps, and visits to the Chinese bunkhouse for lichee fruit amid the smell of opium smoke. It was a simple time on Vancouver Island.

1966 – University of Victoria and smoke of a different kind.

1975 – Ralph S. Plant Ltd. and Widman Industries had joined forces with a new credit manager for Jack Hetherington, Paul Plant, and Charlie Widman.

1986 – Taiga Forest Products Ltd. was spreading its wings and needed a new credit manager for Pat Hamill and Doug Butterworth.

2014 – After 28 years with Taiga (and it may be true I was unable to find any other employment) it is now time for retirement and to let the younger and less experienced have some fun. When I began in business we used carbon paper and dreamed of the promised paperless office; now we have computers and can make bigger and faster mistakes. We sold full carloads of lumber and never dreamed of dealing in truckloads; those cars averaged far less than $8,000 – some as little as $3500 – with the prepaid freight being more than the lumber.

As I enter the next phase of my life I embrace two facts of life:
1. It’s not about what you do, it’s about your right to do it
2. If it’s not fun, go do something else.


New Tools

Social media is a reality forming part of the ‘new rules’ in marketing everything these days – including lumber. But it wasn’t ’til this week that we resorted to Craigslist to move off an early Hallowe’en treat in the Northeast in the form of a lift of 2×12 #3 that had arrived in error among a shipment of #2&Btr. It does however fit into the mode of thinking these days that calls for taking advantage of all the marketing tools available to develop marketing connections. Blogging is merely one, which over the past almost four years has opened new doors to expanded relationships, directly and indirectly associated with lumber.

Urbanization and Lumber

What’s urbanization got to do with lumber we might ask. Plenty, according to a new report from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) and the Urban Land Institute. Their top trends in real estate for 2015 identify where markets are defining need for accommodation. We’re told the urbanization of America has turned nine-to-five cities into 18-hour centers: “Downtown transformations have combined the key ingredients of housing, retail, dining, and walk-to-work offices to generate urban cores, spurring investment and development and raising the quality of life for a roster of cities”. And it’s not just Millennials pouring into those urban cores. Baby boomers are also reportedly moving downtown, instead of into warm-weather golf communities.

Here at home, the transformation of downtown Vancouver has come in the form of an explosion of young families. According to the 2011 census, the number of children downtown under five doubled in the previous five years. “Hundreds of families are choosing to stay in downtown Vancouver after they have children instead of fleeing to the suburbs as previous generations have,” attests The Globe and Mail. At the same time, hundreds of families from the suburbs are downsizing for the many conveniences of downtown living. City planners, unfortunately, did not foresee downtown becoming such a hub for families. We’re short schools. Living in the heart of downtown Vancouver, it will be an anxious time not knowing if our little skater below will luck out in the lottery system to see who gets into our Yaletown neighborhood school next September. Kindergarten registration opens November 1st.


My Uncle returned home from Ottawa yesterday afternoon. He took this photo earlier this week, during visit to the National War Memorial and Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.


Remembering                        -Photo Credit: Stan Harder

New Rules

Comedian Bill Maher has a weekly show on HBO in which he features his “New Rules”. For the serious business of new rules of work, bestselling author Robin Sharma outlines 50 here at The Art Of. Following are at least nine chosen from the list that could be considered very applicable to lumber marketing these days:

  1. Every moment in front of a customer is a moment of truth.
  2. The antidote to deep change is daily learning.
  3. Remember that a critic is a dreamer gone scared.
  4. If you’re not failing regularly, you’re definitely not making much progress.
  5. The bigger the dream, the more important the team.
  6. Keep promises and be impeccable with your word. People buy more than just your products and services. They invest in your credibility.
  7. The purpose of work is to help people. The other rewards are inevitable by-products of this singular focus.
  8. The client is always watching.
  9. Be a Master of Your Craft. And practice + practice + practice.

“New Rule: You don’t have to put the cap back on the bottled water after every sip. It’s water, not a genie.”
– Bill Maher

Swinging the Lumber


Bats by Tucci Lumber (Credit: Most Lovely Things)

Who knew. There really is a connection with the lumber business and today’s opening of the baseball World Series.

Pete Tucci has a serious stake in this year’s series. His Tucci Lumber Company supplies bats to six of Pablo Sandoval’s San Francisco Giants teammates and dozens of major leaguers. His story as told at CNBC from aspiring baseball player, onetime Toronto Blue Jay, to wooden bat supplier to the majors is fascinating. We learn that a bat is not merely a bat. There are 38 companies currently approved by Major League Baseball to sell bats to its players – up from 32 last season and 23 a decade ago – all of whom purchase similar blank billets mostly from the same lumber mills in Upstate New York, Pennsylvania, and Southern Ontario. As with most any other product fashioned from a tree, we learn that shaping a baseball bat depends on what you do with the wood once the re-manufacturing process, from slab to slugger, is underway.

Tall Order

When BC’s BigTree Registry came into the possession of the University of British Columbia in 2010, “it was a mess of paper records” reports The Vancouver Sun. Confirms Sally Aitken, professor of forests and conservation sciences at UBC: “It consisted of several bankers’ boxes of paper records, maps of various sorts and qualities, some photos and then there was just a single list of trees. It was not something that people could really access information from easily.” Access for all is now just a click away at the impressively concise UBC Faculty of Forestry BC BigTree Website which includes a link to the Registry.

Perusing the Registry, it seems safe to presume the giant tree we encountered last month on a visit to Vancouver Island is identified as tree #102. The biggest Coastal Douglas Fir in Cathedral Grove, the registry verifies measurements for tree #102 as: height 70.1 metres, circumference 10.11 m, crown spread 20.7 m. With a “score” of 645, the tree is presently ranked number 8 in the province, species Pseudotsuga menziesii. It was particularly interesting to discover that two Douglas Fir trees located here in North Vancouver are even bigger. With scores of 675 and 673, they presently hold the number four and five rankings on the list of champions.

Updated 10-17:
An email response to this post from BC BigTree Registry confirms tree #102 is not the giant pictured below. In fact the tree below has yet to be nominated: “The receipt of your photo prompted some interesting discussion and it was discovered that tree #102, last measured in 1990, was greatly reduced in size during the big wind storm in 1997.. it is now only 100 feet tall and no longer the largest tree in the grove.. the Registry will be updated to include this new information for tree #102.”

“This you inherit; guard it well, for it is far more precious than money, and once destroyed, nature’s beauty cannot be repurchased at any price.”
– Quote from Ansel Adams
as posted at UBC Faculty of Forestry BC Big Tree Website

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BC Big Tree Registry ID #102, Cathedral Grove #1 ??

Forest Industry Stereotype?

Some may contend that the latest YouTube portrayal unveiled by Canfor to dispel what they claim to be stereotypical view of forest industry people misses the mark. Feedback we’re hearing with respect to the message is a perceived focus that “there’s a common stereotype that people in the forest industry are just lumberjacks with big beards and flannel shirts” is barking up the wrong tree. It’s suggested the glossy presentation’s emphasis on outdated stereotypical characterization does little to dispel the so-called stereotype.
What do you make of Jacked About Lumber?

Visit to UBC

The Industry Insights panel sessions are described at UBC’s Sauder School of Business website as “a chance to provide students with insight into the variety of roles, opportunities, and areas for growth within your sector.”

Forest products marketing, sales and distribution was the focus of Friday’s session. I joined presenters Marc Saracco, Executive Director of the North American Wholesale Lumber Association (NAWLA), Ian McLean, Marketing Coordinator at Spruceland Millworks, Gerry Pankratz, President of Olympic Industries, Chris Gatson, Senior Scientist at FP Innovations, and Tracey Arnish, Senior VP of People and Culture at Canfor. BCom students with wide-ranging career aspirations ranging from organizational behavior and human resources to accounting and finance attended.

It’s evident that a sensitivity to resource sustainability – stewardship of the forest – factor heavily into general interests and potential forest industry careers. I especially enjoyed a brief time of networking with students after the presentations. Many had insightful questions about a career in lumber trading. I was able to share a little bit about my own experience with trading floor pressures, while being reminded that university classrooms still hold plenty of pressures of their own.

~2014 NAWLA Traders Market~

As the Organizing Committee Chair for next year’s NAWLA Regional Meeting in Vancouver April 2nd, I had the pleasure of meeting Executive Director of NAWLA Marc Saracco for dinner Thursday evening. Ian McLean, Organizing Committee Chair of the NAWLA Leadership Summit, also attended. Marc confirmed the show floor for the upcoming NAWLA Traders Market November 12-14 in Chicago is sold out – 235 exhibitors are registered. A Traders Market attendee list is available here.

Panelists 10-10-14

Chris Gatson, Ian McLean, Paul Harder, Marc Saracco, Tracey Arnish, Gerry Pankratz

Industry Insights