AFPA Chief Optimistic Looking Forward
Q. What is the biggest change you have seen in the Alberta industry since you took over the top role at the AFPA?
A. The biggest change that I have seen is a diversification of our markets. There’s a lot shipments to Asia, especially China, and an increased willingness to look at bio-fuels and other uses for fibre.
Q. How are forest industry companies in Alberta doing today?
A. The industry is in a state of cautious optimism. Things are certainly not perfect, and we need lumber and panel prices to increase in order for the industry to prosper in the long-term. At the same time though, lumber prices have stabilized and we have started to see our efforts to diversify markets pay off. Pulp is relatively strong – it really benefits from Asian demand. Our panel products are still having a tough time dealing with the slump in the American economy.
Q. Do you think we are over the worst of the downturn in the forest product business?
A. I’m optimistic that we are. We have definitely seen prices come up from their low, and more importantly, stay there.
Q. Where do you see the Alberta industry being a year from now?
A. I think that we’re going to see a gradual improvement in prices as we continue to promote our products in the Asian market and the American economy slowly begins to heal. In a year, we will be starting to see how Alberta’s Land-use Framework plays out. That’s a tremendously important issue for the industry – we’re heavily invested in the process.
Q. How about in three years and five years? Where do you see things in the Alberta industry?
A. If I knew, I’d make a lot of money on the stock market. Seriously though, I think that our industry offers a commodity that the world is going to demand. The U.S. economy will eventually recover and we’re seeing a lot of positive things happening in Asia, where the potential is just mind-boggling. It bodes well for the future.
Q. How has the downturn in the forest industry affected the AFPA in terms of membership, funding, morale, projects, etc.
A. It’s no secret that the downturn was tough on our members. They had to make tough choices and focus on areas that were true priorities, and so did we. I think that as an organization, wehave come out of the downturn with a renewed focus and in a great position to help our members capitalize on the opportunities that are going to be out there.
Q. What is the mood right now with your members?
A. They are optimistic about the future, but realistic about some of the challenges that we face.
Q. What is the AFPA doing to boost membership and the profile of the forest industry in Alberta?
A. The Work Wild campaign is an exciting new initiative that we have launched. It’s going to let youth know about the broad array of career opportunities in the industry. In addition, the AFPA now has Alberta WoodWORKS! working out of our office. WoodWORKS! focuses on promoting the use of wood in large-scale projects. And, we are also telling our story to local communities – letting them know about what we’re doing in their backyard. Finally, we’re making sure that elected officials know about our industry and it’s importance for Alberta.
Q. In your relationship with the provincial government, what is the AFPA lobbying for?
A. I’ve really placed a lot of emphasis on having a good relationship with the Government of Alberta. They are the landlord and it is important to keep them happy. We lobby on a broad spectrum of issues, but I would say that the most critical issue for us is maintaining access to the landbase. That’s what allows us to manufacture our products.
Q. What is the forest products industry worth in terms of dollars and jobs to Alberta?
A. According to a recent survey by the government of Alberta, we are about $5 billion in revenue and 18,000 direct and indirect jobs.
To find out more about the AFPA, visit www.albertaforestproducts.ca.