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SpruceRoots - Joy, when did you arrive here on the Islands. Would you give me a little background about yourself?
Joy - I came here approximately 30 years ago. I lived and taught school here. I was here for five years, in Sandspit and Queen Charlotte, and then moved away. When I was away I went into real estate for about 17 years, then bought an old shack here in Sandspit and started renovating. I always wanted to come back to the Islands. I spent a year in wonderful retirement, I worked at whatever project I wanted and it was great, I loved it. Then I met Ken and decided to take up the challenge of saw- milling.



SpruceRoots - Did you have any experience in forestry, milling or related industry?
Joy - No, but I like to work and I love the challenge of business. This small sawmill offers a good service to the Island communities and is a satisfying business to be in if you like to work long hard hours. It has been a difficult business to establish any kind of long-term planning. In forestry related industries, there is no security of log supply because so much depends on which way the political winds are blowing.

SpruceRoots - Ken, how did you end up starting and running a sawmill here in Sandspit?
Ken - This is the third time that I have moved to the Islands. I worked in Sewell twice, then moved back to Vancouver Island. Fifteen years ago I moved back up here. I was a faller until about 5 years ago, and approximately ten years before that I ran a falling contract outfit around here. I got tired of running up and down the hillsides with a powersaw - when you get to the age I am it is time to look for something new.
My brother has a mill like we have and he has been cutting salvage on Vancouver Island for Pacific Logging. Pacific has their own private timber supply, he went and made a deal with them and did fairly well with the roadside salvage down there. I had him come up here and have a look at TimberWest's ground to see if there was enough wood to make it worthwhile putting an investment in. He spent a few days here and said there was lots of wood, more than what he had down there. He figured I would do pretty good, so I mortgaged the house, made a mistake, and bought a mill.
Since they have put all the roads to bed. In Pacific they are having some of the same problems we are having up here in terms of access. So he lost a lot of his wood supply because he couldn't get at it, so it wasn't worth it anymore. He now custom cuts. There are lots of small farms down on Vancouver Island and the farms have their own timber.



SpruceRoots - How long has your mill at Alliford Bay been operating?
Ken - We have been here for five years. Joy and I have been partners for two years.

SpruceRoots - Did you start out the operation with six employees?
Ken - No, when I first started I had one other guy working with me. We were [contract salvaging] with TimberWest. At that time I was having trouble getting big enough areas from TimberWest. They would give a small block with only three or four days worth of milling, so it was tough to go to all the work and time getting permits for that. Permits were a lot harder to get then, it was quick if we got a permit in three months.
Then I went to see MB about getting salvage from them and renting their mill site at Alliford. They had shut down their mill by then. They were really good, they helped get permits through the Ministry of Forests. When I started salvaging MB areas I was running two shifts and had eight people working.

SpruceRoots - As things stand today, you are set up down at Alliford Bay at the old MB millsite, running a WoodMiser band saw, cutting the salvaged logs into 1" X 2" and then cutting that into lengths with a radial arm saw for a tree planting stake contract, and you are doing local lumber sales and custom cutting. Are you running two shifts now?
Ken
- Right now we are, when we get stake contracts and we have a deadline to get them out we run two shifts. This stake contract is for Husby. The contract is for 81,000 stakes for the fall planting. We did 50,000 for them in the spring time. They have been a lifesaver for us.

SpruceRoots
- What other contracts have you had?
Ken - We had a Forestry contract which was 30,000 pieces the first time and then they ordered another 50,000. And we did 16,000 pieces for TimberWest.

SpruceRoots - And you sell lumber locally?
Joy - Yes, one of the contractors said the quality of wood that we cut saves him 40% because he doesn't have to remanufacture the wood. It is a good thing in the community, selling wood, if you need 10 boards or 30 boards for a deck it is here, and that business is ongoing.

SpruceRoots - Would you say that in terms of your business revenue that your stake contracts have been the bulk of your income?
Ken - Right now, yes, but the local sales have been really excellent. We've sold to Fisheries and Parks. We've supplied wood to the Visitor Center in Queen Charlotte, the siding , interior wood, and picture frames at the Sandspit Airport and the new Community Market building in Queen Charlotte, MB donated the wood and we cut the lumber for that. We cut 30,000 board feet of lumber for a new school in Kincome Inlet.

SpruceRoots - How many employees do you have now?
Ken - Right now we have four steady and two part-time, but they might as well be full-time the way things have been going. The 2 part-timers work when we have bigger contracts.
So, I would say six people including Joy and myself. Jason Wourms is the operations manager, and my son Gary works with us. Our other employees at the moment are, Tasha Wourms, Liz Piwick, and Garnet Yake.

SpruceRoots - What is the difference between your operation and work style and other larger forestry employers on the Island?
Joy - Company loyalty, morale, and security. When we are waiting for permits to be processed we will fight tooth and nail not to lay people off. Last fall we took our crew to our favorite mushroom patches to keep them working, so we wouldn't lose them, so they wouldn't be unemployed. The loyalty goes both ways in a small company.
Ken - You get closer, it would be hard for any large company to get people to work harder than our crew does.
Joy - We all pull together. When we have deadlines to meet, we all work longer hours and when the pressure is off it is more relaxed. Our crew gives us their all and they know that we care about them personally, and try to pass on any benefits we can to them. Calling it a family operation is the only way you can describe our company.

SpruceRoots - With six employees how much wood do you need to operate for a year?
Ken - About three thousand cubic metres.
Joy - That is one shift.
Ken - We could probably use close to six thousand cubic metres. If we had the wood, we could use it, we have the markets for it, that is not the problem. Getting the wood is the problem. We can keep 6 people steady with three thousand cubic metres, we can probably keep ten people going steady with six thousand cubic metres.
Joy - I think people relate to the fact that so many cubic metres of wood produces so many jobs, but it all depends on what you do with the wood. That three thousand cubic metres could keep 6-8 people working if we can go the second step, get into planning or if we can keep manufacturing it and do the marketing as we are. Our operation is very labor intensive, so the cubic metre equation depends on what you do with the wood, it could be more or it could be less.
Ken - If we were just squaring the logs off and shipping them out and didn't worry about local sales we could probably cut six thousand cubic metres and use 3 people. But with the manufacturing we do and local sales that three thousand cubic metres will keep six people working.

SpruceRoots - Is there enough of the stake-type contracts around to keep one shift going twelve months of the year? It sounds like there is probably enough work to keep two shifts going if you could get the wood.
Ken - Yes, and if we had the salvage with TimberWest it would also keep Alec Matson going [Alec owns a self-loading logging truck) so that is another job. We use him a lot when we have the wood.

SpruceRoots - This is such a familiar story, it comes down to wood supply and access to a small amount of wood. I understand you have an arrangement with Husby worked out, is the move to that area specifically because you can't get the wood supply in the Sandspit area? You have worked with the MB holdings here in Sandspit, have you salvaged what you can use?
Ken -We have got what we can apply for now because we can't get into a fairly large portion of the land. It will be anywhere from six months to a year and a half before we can get in because those areas are tied up with a shake contract. Forestry can't issue two different cutting permits for the same area. Well that isn't exactly true; they can but MB has to exempt the road system 30 metres from the center line on either side for post-salvage work to be done.
Believe me we get along well with the shake contractor. We share equipment back and forth, but the sad part about it is that it is all tied up the way the current system works. We would only take about 1% of the wood away from the shake contractor if the road is excempt.

SpruceRoots - If you could get access to the land would you stay at Alliford Bay?
Ken - Yes, we would still be here, there would be enough wood to keep us going. We would probably get another eight months work from those MB areas. [TimberWest is another story, we can't come to an agreement with them because I think of some past business that didn't go well.

SpruceRoots - In terms of business planning, you went out and found another market thinking you would have the wood supply from the TimberWest area, and to date you don't, do you still have the product under development and the market?
Joy - We have developed the idea to the point where we know what the product is, that took a long time to understand. We did experiments, we worked on it for months to try and see if we can make it and make it to their specifications. They took a lot of samples back with them. We knew that we would have to be competitive on pricing, but we were at the point of doing the pricing with them when we realized that we may not have the wood supply, so we backed off from doing it here in Alliford Bay, but we will persist with the product and manufacture in Husby's camp.

SpruceRoots - Is that the link for moving into Husby's Naden Harbour chart area. Not only to produce for that market but if you have a secure wood supply then you have more opportunity to expand your market and products? How did moving to Husby come about?
Ken - Without Husby we would be just about dead in the water right now.
We were looking for wood, and we could see we were beating our head up against the wall with TimberWest. We had spent so much time and energy getting things worked out, showing them how we do the work and what we do, it was all in good faith, then all of a sudden you can feel the doors get closed on you.
I said to Joy that maybe we better get ahold of Husby and that maybe we could go in there. Our homes are here in Sandspit, and believe me we would love to stay, but if we have to go to camp to keep people working, well then we will do that.

Joy - We went into Husby and had a look around. We were a little disappointed the first time we went in, as there wasn't that much wood, we expected a lot more.
We said there isn't enough roadside salvage to really keep us going so how about we do the shaking as well, our company could expand a little in that area, Ken has experience shaking, as well as his son Gary. So with that option we could get enough work to keep the company going.

SpruceRoots - Are you going to be able to buy wood from the dryland sort?
Joy - That was another thing that made the total package.
Ken - We can expand in there and have a really good operation because in our contract we can purchase 6000 cubic metres a year from the log sort if we need it. And we can purchase this wood at a fair price.

SpruceRoots - That took a little flexibility on Husby's part.
Ken - They want to help.
Joy - They want to make this work.

SpruceRoots - Why would they want to make it work?
Joy - Because Bob Brash believes in salvage. I honestly do believe that, and I think that is where the direction is coming from. We have felt that he is behind us 100%. When we were dealing with the blow-down issues when he was with the Ministry of Forests (Mr. Brash was Ministry of Forests Queen Charlotte District Manager). Ministry of Forests had a push on to clean up all blow-down areas of MoF Lands and TFL holders on the Islands. Bob Brash as District Manager was keen to get a program going to accomplish this. We had planned to do some small patches for MacMillan Bloedel.
At that time he tried to get all the salvage programs going. I think Bob really believed in it, and I think the idea has prevailed where he is now, even though he has changed hats. A mistake is made (the waste wood that is left) and that is not a sin, it happened at a time when markets were different, but what is happening now I think is a sin. Some of the companies are aware of the waste and they are not doing anything about it, or they want to keep it and relog the waste for the cream at a lower stumpage rate. Bob has a different look on it. Husby Forest Products management and crew have been very co-operative with us.
Ken - I can give a good example about how cooperative Husby is and how they want to make it work. We all know about their waste pile on fire. There are short chunks in there that have fallen out. They are picking those out and setting them off to the side in case we can use them. It is hard to believe, but that is how cooperative they are.

SpruceRoots - Are you continuing to pursue a wood supply on Moresby Island?
Joy - Yes, it is with the intent of getting an operation back on Moresby that we started negotiations with MB for salvage on Louise Island. We have a few of the logistics to work out yet. We don't know how much sense it will make to cut into cants then bring everything to Alliford for local sales or further manufacturing and shipping.

SpruceRoots - You have one mill now, are you thinking about getting another mill and running a couple of operations?
Ken - Yes, we would like to have a community-based operation.

SpruceRoots - So Sandspit loses six jobs.
Joy - Husby has the will to make this work. We were in there two weeks ago, and in two weeks maybe three we are getting the permit. Husby hired top notch people and they make it a priority.
You can try to work cooperatively for so long, but if the will is not there it is going to be very difficult. Ken and I sit and dream and visualize about how things could be and products we could produce. I love the idea of producing different products.
Ken - I feel we have done what we can do. We asked ICSI, but if they are not willing to help then we have to put our energy into what is going to help our company most. It is better to put that energy into something that you know is going to be productive.
Joy - At one of the Small Manufactures meetings we said to our ICSI representatives that ICSI may be able to create 30 or 40 jobs with the Community Forest but if you lose 10 or 12 jobs along the way you really have created only 20 or so, if you forget about the people who are already here and don't support them you've gained nothing in the long run.
I know that is asking a lot of ICSI, they have put an enormous amount of time and energy into getting the Community Forest going. Perhaps some segment of ICSI should have been trying to support the businesses that are already here, I don't think that provision was ever made because it would have made a big difference to us. If ICSI had said to TimberWest and MB, mind you MB has been good to us, but if they had said to TimberWest "look this is what they need," if they had said to the Ministry of Forests "a small direct sale of fifteen hundred cubic metres is needed," and this is not standing trees, this is salvage wood we are talking about then that would have allowed us to plan ahead.
We are not the types who have ever expected or asked for help, we have always said if we can just work we will be happy. I think we were a little disappointed that we didn't get the support from the community. People didn't get behind us, ICSI didn't get behind us.
Ken - We have never asked for any help capitalizing equipment or for anything we have needed at our site. We plan to put a planner in so we can get into a more finished product for interior work. The only help we have asked for is to get a wood supply and we are not asking them to give it to us. We just want access to the wood and to pay fair market value for it.
Our main concern right now is wood supply. That is our biggest fear, that has to be addressed for everyone. I don't know if we have to get Glen Clark or Dan Miller up here and walk them around to see what is being buried and left behind-when old roads are put to bed before salvage is done, jobs are lost
I hate like hell to say CBC but I know one thing, if CBC went out on these roads that are being put to bed by FRBC projects and saw the wood that is left, I think the very next day you would have a group of the head guys getting together and trying to figure out how to deal with it.
Joy - I think of the salvage issue the same way the FRBC projects should be approached, and that is taking a good strong look at it. Then ask ourselves what is the best way to do it and how are we going to maximize what comes out of the forest?
It was unfortunate when CBC did their report on waste wood that they did not visit our operation. We offer a positive option that MB and Husby are using to deal with their old waste.
I always thought-from the very first ICSI meeting that there is so little forest left-there is the fight to save, and there is the fight to log, everybody wants it. It seems to me, that for every salvage log used, there is a green tree saved. Let's not make the same mistakes again. Salvage wood should be manufactured locally to the fullest degree. Let's do it properly and utilize it fully.

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