Canadian Forest Industries annual Top 10 Under 40 is our way of highlighting outstanding loggers, sawmillers, researchers and other contributors to forestry in Canada whose stories may otherwise go unheard. We had a record number of nominees this year, all of whom deserve to be celebrated.
Each of our 10 winners has been selected because he or she is excelling at his or her job and contributing to advancements in Canada’s forest sector. Their stories speak for themselves.
Introducing this year’s Top 10 Under 40 winners.
- Ali Zarei Ali Zarei
- Antoine Larochelle Benoit Antoine Larochelle Benoit
- Chris Kalesnikoff Chris Kalesnikoff
- Cory Wilson Cory Wilson
- Daniel Main Daniel Main
- Jessica Kaknevicius Jessica Kaknevicius
- Marco Godette Marco Godette
- Maurice Theriault Maurice Theriault
- Sean Dinsmore Sean Dinsmore
- Tyler Backer Tyler Backer
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Electrical chargehand, Western Forest Products, Saltair Sawmill, Ladysmith, B.C.
Consultant Terry Charlton describes Cory Wilson as a sponge for information gathering and understanding.
“He has great ability to absorb a tremendous amount of info at any one time,” Charton explains. “He very personable and easily approachable. He has time for everyone.”
The 26-year-old began working for Western Forest Products in 2006 at just 17 years old pulling lumber on the green chain. Over the next few years he became a lumber tally person, and then received a lumber grading ticket.
In 2008 Cory began an electrical apprenticeship and after working at different sawmills and energy projects, was hired by Saltair Sawmill in 2012 as an electrical chargehand. His new position threw him into the thick of Western Forest Products $40-million upgrades at Saltair, Al Harrison of Harrison Mill Systems explains.
“Cory was eager to jump into and be a part of these upgrades and became the go-to liaison between the mill and the project teams,” Harrison says. Once those projects wrapped, he began leading new electrical projects at the mill.
“Some project startups don’t always go as planned. Cory has been, and will continue to be a key member of the project startup team. ‘Ownership’ is the key word. He ensures the crew has pizza on the way when a long night is imminent the last day of a shutdown before startup. He digs in and will tackle any problem until it is solved,” Harrison says.
Quality systems manager, Fornebu Lumber, Brunswick Mines, N.B.
Maurice Theriault’s experience in the New Brunswick lumber industry spans 17 years and three sawmills.
The 38-year-old got his first job as a labourer at JD Irving sawmill in St-Leonard. There he quickly rose in the ranks and was eventually promoted to relief supervisor. His next job was as quality system manager and process improvement with JD Irving sawmill in Deersdale where he worked for a few years before moving to Fornebu Lumber in 2011 to take on the role of production supervisor.
In 2014, Maurice was promoted by Fornebu Lumber to quality system manager and process improvement.
“Maurice is a forward thinker. He sees the big picture ahead. He has no problem in sharing is experiences (lessons learned),” Christian Fournier, safety co-ordinator for Fornebu Lumber, says.
Fournier cites Maurice’s natural leadership, drive to continuously improve, and communication skills as the reasons he is highly respected within the Fornebu team.
“Maurice has an approachable nature. He is always willing to help when needed and volunteers to help when we are under staffed. He is friendly, has a good sense of humour,” Fournier says.
After a few years of quality and optimization improvement consulting for other mills in the area, Maurice recently accepted a new job as a solution expert in optimization for VAB Solutions out of Levis, Que.
General manager, Main Logging, Terrace, B.C.
Daniel Main’s love for logging dates back to when he was a toddler, napping at his dad’s feet in the cab of his machine, says Ferris Moxam, Daniel’s spouse.
“I see his love for logging every time we hit the road and can’t drive past a piece of equipment without taking a closer look; or when he falls asleep to videos of grapple yarders at work,” Moxam says.
Daniel is one of three brothers who took over the family business run out of Terrace, B.C. He started working as a logger after he graduated in 2005.
The 29-year-old isn’t just brawn, Moxam adds. He became a journeyman heavy duty mechanic and has taken numerous courses and workshops related to project management and logging specific training. Today as general manager he is active in sourcing and securing work, managing crews, maintaining equipment and running equipment when need arises.
“Daniel has earned the respect of his colleagues and crew by never being afraid to put in long hours or get his hands dirty,” Moxam says.
Outside of the company, Daniel sits on the Terrace Economic Development Authority. Board member Kam Siemens describes Daniel as a hard working family man, and community minded. “Through all of this his creativity and innovative ways has allowed the company to flourish,” he says.
Director of forest education and awareness, Forests Ontario, Toronto
Jessica Kaknevicius is in a unique position to be a leader in the forest industry in Ontario. Not only is she a director with Forests Ontario, she’s the co-creator of Women in Wood, a project that links women in the field across Canada to network, share information and seek mentoring.
“Jessica is extremely passionate about what she does, which no doubt leads to the success of the many forestry outreach programs she has implemented from start to finish,” says Lacey Rose, Jessica’s partner in Women in Wood.
The 34-year-old has a master’s in forest conservation and began working with Forests Ontario in 2009. Some of her projects include a program – Forestry in the Classroom – that allows forestry professionals to talk to youth about their jobs and a Forestry Connects program that gives urban students hands-on forestry experience.
“Jessica has a keen ability to make forestry interesting and applicable to the general public, and is very skilled at explaining what forest workers do in a language that is palatable to those without a forestry background,” Rose says. “This is not only necessary, since forestry workers themselves generally have a hard time speaking in relatable terms, but has proven to be successful in improving public perception of our industry.”
Owner, Tyler Backer Contracting LTD, Pro-Link Logging and Quesnel Sand and Gravel, Quesnel, B.C.
Tyler Backer has accomplished a lot for your average 33-year-old. As the owner of three successful companies – Tyler Backer Contracting LTD, Pro-Link Logging and Quesnel Sand and Gravel – all based in Quesnel, B.C., Tyler is responsible for 27 employees and four subcontractors. He owns two gravel and 10 log trucks, 12 pieces of forestry equipment and three grading machines.
But his path to ownership was not perfect. Tyler took over the family businesses in 2009 at just 25-years-old when his father passed away in an accident.
“Tyler has shown great leadership and dedication to get where he is today,” said Tigercat Industries’ Samantha Paul. “Not only does he take initiative, Tyler is an early adopter, always open to new ideas and willing to try new techniques.”
Tyler is a leader by example, Paul said. He’s up early every morning and in the bush before his crew. Trained by his father, he can operate all of his equipment and has taken the time to get to know all the ins and outs of his three businesses.
“Tyler was thrown into the business under less than perfect circumstances and has made the very best of it. He has become a very important customer for Inland Quesnel,” Inland’s Quesnel branch general manager Ken Taylor said.
“We would love to have 10 more Tyler Backer customers on our customer list.”
ANTOINE LAROCHELLE BENOIT
Forest engineer and owner of LB Profor, Windsor, Que.
While working for many years in northern Lac-Saint-Jean, Que., for Resolute Forest Products and the Obejiwan sawmill, Antoine Larochelle Benoit noticed an important need for forest businesses. They needed to improve their performance management. “I always had a entrepreneurial spirit and I saw a good opportunity with the arrival of the new forest regime in Quebec in 2013,” he says.
In 2012, Antoine decided to launch LB Profor, a Windsor-based business specialized in silvicultural operations and consulting services for performance management. While silviculture represents the core of his business, Antoine wants to help forest businesses create more value with performance managing tools. “Most businesses don’t have precise data on their production cost, for example. They go with their feelings,” he says.
However, a simple calculation on the scarification cost with geomatics data can help a client evaluate his productivity on different working conditions and field types. This data helps make more precise decisions that can generate returns.
With his team of a dozen employees, Antoine, 34, would like to develop the forestry operations even more in the coming years. In 2017, he began a 4.0 platform and is planning to invest in more technological tools to facilitate the information flow between different departments. Antoine hopes these investments will have an influence on his clients to help them progress faster in the world of forest technology.
Forestry performance has become Antoine’s personal challenge and his influence is growing year after year in Quebec’s forest industry.
Vice-president, Dinsmore Trucking, Clarksburg, Ont., and Vulcan, Alta.
Sean Dinsmore, 30, received a whopping six nominations from co-workers, bosses, partners, and customers. Industry advocate, pioneer, innovative and hard working were words used by his nominators.
Sean followed in the footsteps of his father and is now the third generation behind a hydro pole and logging company. The company, Dinsmore Trucking, began in 1958 by Sean’s grandfather in Ontario.
Under Sean’s direction, the Clarksburg, Ont., company grew from a small family operation into a cross-Canada and U.S. heavyweight in the long wood industry, Bev Peart, Sean’s co-worker, explains. The company now includes a satellite office in Vulcan, Alta.
“Sean is still young, but a tremendous pioneer already. Though this company has grown, Sean still keeps the family values tight to his chest and still makes time to chat with all staff and their families, and is still known to take little ones for a truck ride,” Peart says.
“He has an innovative mind; particularly for ways of designing equipment to haul up to 130-feet trees in all Canadian jurisdictions from the bush, to the peeler, from the peeler to the treating plant, and from the plant to market,” Dinsmore’s Michael James explains.
Other nominations from customers and business partners extolled Sean’s excellent service, work ethic and honesty. “He will take the time to think of innovative ways to improve his service instead of accepting things are ‘always’ done a certain way,” Trans Canada Utility Pole Co.’s Richard O’Mara says.
Chief operating officer, Kalesnikoff Lumber Company, Thrums, B.C.
Chris Kalesnikoff has come a long way from his younger days doing clean-up in the family mill, piling stickers and shovelling sawdust and bark. Today, at just 32, Chris is the chief operating officer of Kalesnikoff Lumber Company in Thrums, B.C.
But his journey to the COO seat involved more than just learning to operate every piece of equipment in the mill. After high school, Chris received a business diploma in Medicine Hat, Alta., on a basketball scholarship, and then later spent a year at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont., in their business program while playing basketball at the national level.
“While his first love may have been sports, sawdust always ran in his veins,” Ron Corneil, Chris’ co-worker and coach explains.
Chris returned to Kalesnikoff in 2008 to work as a front line leader in the sawmill. Two years later he took on responsibilities as operations manager and then in 2011 and 2012 led Kalesnikoff’s sawmill modernization project, the largest investment in the history of the company. He has since overseen upgrades to the planer and the installation of a new kiln.
Chris’ other achievements include reducing injury rates to historical lows, formalizing a team-based work system to build on the company’s strong work ethic, and earning the respect of the sawmill team.
“He is typically one of the first people to arrive at work and one of the last to leave. His open-door policy makes him accessible to everyone in the organization, regardless of the time of day or day of the week,” Corneil says.
Controller and corporate secretary, Richmond Plywood Corporation Ltd., Richmond, B.C.
Ali Zarei has played an integral role to advancing Richmond Plywood Corporation’s mill through production and operational management, financial steering and streamlining, and all in just one year.
Ali came to Richmond Plywood on an interim basis from Deloitte LLP and was appointed full time in May 2016. The 30-year-old stands out within the company where the median age is around 50-60.
“He is a visionary, goal oriented, and forward thinking executive management member who constantly sets the bar high for expectations and is progressively aiming to improve his team members,” Gurnam Minhas, Richmond Plywood’s president and chairman, says.
Ali’s achievements include record-setting financial ratio improvements and significant capital generation and streamlining the accounting department through the integration of a new accounting system with other supporting systems.
“He plays a vital role in ensuring our organization is in line with all our partnered associations’ expectations, which expresses his high level of care for quality assurance,” Minhas says. “He is always generating new ideas and pushing our boundaries to unforeseen limits, which have been greatly appreciated from a chairman, board of directors, and organizational standpoint.”
Owner and operator, Broyage RM, Saint-Hyacinthe, Que.
As soon as Marco Gaudette turned 18, he decided to become a construction entrepreneur. Years later, in 2009, Marco trained as a carpenter and took interest in the forest sector. At the time wood pallet businesses had a lot of residues to shred and Marco saw a business opportunity.
“I called Domtar to sell them the biomass before buying a wood chipper,” Marco says. “But they did not transfer me to the right person, because a forester offered me a grinding contract on their private lands.” That contract was more than enough for Marco to invest in a wood grinder and launch Broyage RM in Saint-Hyacinthe, Que.
Marco’s margins were slim with his first contract, but the entrepreneur persevered. Eight years later, at 34-years-old, Marco’s company now processes 225,000 tons of biomass yearly for clients such as Domtar, Acadian Timber and Irving. Meanwhile, he developed a unique business model: he buys the raw material left in the forest, grinds it and sells it to pulp and paper mills.
The profitability of his business is tied to transportation costs. In 2009, operations were limited to 75 kilometres or less from the mill in order for Broyage RM to make money. Today, Marco Gaudette can go as far as 130 kilometres and still make a profit with his three grinders – two Vermeer’s and one Morbark – and nine employees.
To keep his business growing, Marco now dreams about a biomass mill that would store and process even more raw material for his clients.