Building Homes – and Hope!

Every 35 minutes, there’s a Habitat home dedication for a new partner family somewhere in the world. Since 1985, Habitat for Humanity has made affordable homeownership possible for over 2,866 families in need of affordable housing in Canada, including 228 in 2015. “Primary funding comes from our 95 Canadian ReStores that sell new or gently used home décor and building supplies,” says Ken Miller, Manager, Western Canada Operations. According to Katie Franzios, Senior Communications Manager, Habitat for Humanity Canada also benefits from the support of approximately 70,000 volunteers each year.Families

I recently had the opportunity to meet with Ken and also Dennis Coutts, CEO, Habitat for Humanity
Greater Vancouver – at their new Distribution Centre in Burnaby. This inventory hub ships product to 35 Western ReStores – from Campbell River to Winnipeg. It was inspiring to hear Dennis talk so passionately about how Habitat Greater Vancouver is helping to “break the cycle of poverty”. With a 27-unit townhouse village on Government Street in Burnaby complete, their next build project is set to begin in June – at 8180 Ash Street – in Richmond. Six single family homes, each with a secondary suite, will serve 12 families. The secondary suites will be affordable housing for seniors at risk, with proceeds benefiting the Habitat families. I was also very interested to learn about Habitat Greater Vancouver’s deconstruction services.

We’re often reminded about the growing importance of corporate social responsibility, social impact, corporate citizenship, and sustainability in business today. If your company is interested in donating excess lumber or other building materials to Habitat’s build programs, contact Ken Miller to learn more. Any yard clean-ups can go straight to one of two Distribution Centres supporting 97 ReStores across Canada. “These donations will help us serve more families,” says Ken, who confirms it’s easy, green, and good for the bottom line.

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with Ken Miller and Dennis Coutts – April 16th

2016 NAWLA Vancouver Regional Meeting

Record numbers jammed the elegant Vancouver Club’s Grand Ballroom yesterday afternoon, for the annual North American Wholesale Lumber Association (NAWLA) Regional Meeting. Billed as The Lumber Marketing Event of the Year, NAWLA’s Executive Director Marc Saracco opened the meeting at 3:50pm. Presentations by three featured speakers were all very well-received:

  • Cees de Jager, Chief Marketing Officer, Softwood Lumber Board
  • Daryl Swetlishoff, Senior Managing Director, Raymond James Ltd.
  • Susan Yurkovich, President and CEO, COFI

Before giving way to the ever-popular networking session, the meeting concluded with a presentation from Presenting Sponsor HSBC Bank Canada’s Ananth Krishnan, Head of Business Development, Global Trade & Receivables Finance. The Planning Committee also wishes to thank CP Rail, Euler Hermes, Norman G Jensen, and Blue Book Services for their generous support. Thanks also to Tree Frog News, for the following images posted with permission. See their full report here. More event images at here.


2016 COFI Convention – 23 Takeaways

  1. Convention buzzwords: competitiveness, rationalize/rationalization, utilize/utilization
  2. “Rationalize” is a euphemism for fewer mills.
  3. In familiar staccato style, Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, Honourable Steve Thomson’s talked about viewing the forest sector through various lenses. “We’re focused to make sure we have a competitive framework in British Columbia..”
  4. Speaking of competitiveness, the province is well-positioned owing to success in Asian markets. Fibre supply has historically been an advantage but is now under pressure. Delivered wood costs, tax environment, energy costs, and regulatory processes are disadvantages. – Jock Finlayson, Executive VP & Chief Policy Officer, BC Business Council
  5. Highly regarded, impressive newcomer to COFI leadership is CEO and President, Susan Yurkovich
  6. We are in the midst of a long period of strengthening lumber markets, however growth in 2016 will be disappointing. – Paul Jannke, Principal, Lumber, Forest Economic Advisors
  7. “One thing every investor wants is liquidity.” And no matter how manageable, “investors are not interested in material stocks with debt.” Among forest analysts, Daryl Swetlishoff, Senior Managing Director, Raymond James Ltd., Equity Research is a rock star. While noting the forest sector accounts for barely 1% of the TSX Index, Swetlishoff said “opportunities exist because the market is not very efficient.” Uncertainty surrounding the SLA is keeping forestry stocks on the tarmac.
  8. “Investors always ask about two things: the SLA and demand for lumber in China.” – Ted Seraphim, President & CEO, West Fraser
  9. At the 2014 COFI Convention, Ted Seraphim simply told us it was “all about capacity”. And last year, I was critical of the CEO Panel here. This year, the CEO Panel, which also included Duncan Davies, President & CEO Interfor Corporation, and Ron Gorman, President & CEO, Gorman Bros. was a convention highlight. Seraphim was candid throughout, opening up about safety worries, the challenges in accessing high quality cost-effective fibre, and the strive to achieve our potential.
  10. Person at the convention I would most like to have lunch with: Duncan Davies, CEO Interfor. In a refreshingly relaxed manner, he expertly explained all things SLA during the CEO Panel.
  11. I asked the CEO panel “How does the “Canadian Invasion” re. sawmill acquisitions in the U.S. South impact SLA negotiations?” The panel viewed the learning experience as a real positive. With an eye to negotiations, they all agreed it has brought better understanding. Historically, Canadian producers have not seen how the system functions in the U.S.
  12. The first tariff was placed on Canadian softwood lumber exports to the United States in 1872.
  13. U.S. mills are at a competitive advantage because fibre costs are lower in the U.S. than B.C.
  14. U.S. trade laws are designed to protect U.S. producers. Consumers have nothing to do with it.
  15. The U.S. views trade deals as bad deals; blame present economic pessimism on the U.S. election. If a problem seems very complicated, a significant segment of the population doesn’t want a complicated answer. – Bruce Anderson, Chairman, Abacus Data
  16. Changing context – viewing the world as a market – global, inter-connected market – relationships/polarization. Change is not a choice. “If you don’t like change, you better acquire a taste for it.” –  Bruce Anderson
  17. Wood is good. In 1997, public opinion in Canada of the forest sector was 1/3 negative, 1/3 positive, and 1/3 neutral (costs start to rise at 25% negative opinion). Today, only 20% negative, which is low for the sector. Positive perception explains why politicians are embracing the industry. – Bruce Anderson
  18. “Sustainability has gone mainstream” – Ken Shields, President & CEO, Conifex Timber Inc.
  19. Re: the industry rationalization period, “it’s hard to be seeking collaboration at the same time you’re all fighting for a piece of a smaller pie” – Ken Shields
  20. Interesting to learn from Diane Nicholls, Chief Forester that overall, actual cuts are falling short of the Annual Allowable Cut (AAC). In view of midterm timber supply constraints, it was curious to hear that finding ways to maximize cuts to the full extent allowed was a priority. (see Nbr. 21)
  21. “Most of the economically harvestable beetle-killed timber has been harvested.” – Tim Sheldan, Deputy Minister, Ministry of Forests, Lands and Resource Operations
  22. Premier Christy Clark was in full electioneering mode at the Community Leaders Luncheon. It was a friendly crowd, and her excitable keynote address drew a standing ovation.
  23. This was my fourth consecutive outstanding COFI Convention, the location having alternated annually between Kelowna and Prince George. A surprise announcement at the Friday luncheon confirmed the convention will be in Vancouver next year. While convenient for me, how this change influences attendees will be interesting to see. On my travels, and after listening to the mayors of Prince George, Williams Lake, and Cranbrook at the Community Leaders Breakfast session, the Interior and northern communities of this province don’t share the same love affair with Vancouver that Vancouver does these days. In the words of Walt Cobb, Mayor of Williams Lake, talking about Vancouver/Victoria on Friday morning, “They just don’t get it!”

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COFI Convention in full bloom

There’s always a chance that brilliance of cherry trees in blossom could upstage a Council of Forest Industries Convention scheduled for mid April in the Okanagan. However, the program itinerary ensures there’s plenty to capture our attention at the Kelowna meetings this weekend. COFI’s Convention website boasts that the largest gathering of the forest sector in Western Canada will attract 400-500 delegates “including industry CEOs, vice presidents and senior managers from continental North America and offshore, senior representatives from customers, suppliers, financial institutions, law firms, local government and chambers of commerce, Federal and Provincial Ministers, MPs, MLAs and senior civil servants, along with Premier Christy Clark… and me.

The Convention though, will see and hear the Premier, featured as closing keynote speaker. The annual gathering brings attention and awareness to the significance of forestry to the economic well-being of the province. My 25 takeaways from last year’s convention are available here.

COFI points out that “with 140 B.C. communities dependent on forestry, the 300 wood products manufacturing facilities in B.C. provide one out of every four manufacturing jobs in the province and account for 35 per cent of all commodity exports from B.C. COFI CEO and President, Susan Yurkovich, featured speaker at the upcoming NAWLA Regional Meeting in Vancouver April 21st, reminded us that “the industry directly and indirectly employs about 145,000 across the province, from Fort St. John to Vancouver, with one in 16 jobs in B.C. associated with forestry.”  All of this surely representative of an industry in full bloom.

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Lake Okanagan, Kelowna (April 9, 2016)