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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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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