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Introducing CFI’s seventh annual Top 10 Under 40

September 23, 2019  By Canadian Forest Industries Staff

The 2019 Top 10 Under 40

We often hear about how challenging it is to attract young people to the forestry industry. But it’s encouraging to know that there are, in fact, many young people across the country who will help ensure the industry continues to succeed for generations to come. Canadian Forest Industries is proud to highlight the winners of our seventh annual Top 10 Under 40 contest.

Each year, choosing just 10 future forestry stars becomes harder and harder. But these 10 men and women represent every aspect of Canada’s forestry sector, and love what they do.

They and their fellow nominees represent the future of the industry, and we at CFI believe the future is bright. Here are their stories:

CFO, Kalesnikoff Lumber Company, Thrums, B.C.


Despite growing up in the lumber industry, working various part-time and summer jobs during her high school years, Krystle Seed’s path to her current role as chief financial operator for Thrums, B.C.-based Kalesnikoff Lumber Company wasn’t a direct one.

After earning her bachelor of commerce degree at the University of Victoria, Krystle joined the banking industry for five years, gaining a greater understanding of the financial world. But she soon felt the need to return to the lumber industry, starting out as a business accountant with Kalesnikoff. The 38-year-old has since completed her CPA, CMA designation and advanced into her current role as CFO, as well as a member of the board of directors for the company.

Her education and experience has helped lead Kalsenikoff to success, says Ron Corneil, her colleague and coach.

“Krystle’s talents with analytics and spread sheets, combined with her ability to introduce and train others on financial acumen and business systems, has significantly enhanced our leadership team’s capabilities and business results throughout our organization,” Corneil explains.

In fact, Krystle was instrumental in securing financing for Kalesnikoff’s new $35-million cross-laminated mass timber plant, which broke ground in March 2019.

Her work has “been critical in helping secure the future of this fourth-generation family-owned company in an industry that has seen dramatic consolidation and closures over the past several decades,” Corneil says.

Outside of Kalesnikoff, Krystle is a devoted mother to her two children and has found ways to juggle her time and priorities to find the elusive work-life balance, Corneil adds, even as she becomes more involved in industry initiatives.

“We can expect to see more of her on this landscape in the not-too-distant future,” he hints.

Director of Forestry and Environmental Policy, Ontario Forest Industries Association, Toronto

Ian has been in the forest industry for 10 years, and during that time, “he has evolved to a level of complete respect from all his peers on his communication skills,” says Dave Legg, Ian’s colleague and fellow Ontario Forest Industries Association (OFIA) member.

Ian, 32, is able to speak with anyone in the industry, from CEOs to front-line workers, and all levels of government, Legg explains. His ability to understand conflict and find solutions has proven to be extremely valuable for OFIA, he adds. For example, Ian was instrumental in the proposed harmonization of Ontario’s Endangered Species Act and the Crown Forest Sustainability Act, leading a team to work with the provincial government in developing forest management prescriptions to ensure minimal loss of fibre supply.

Ian has also given presentations about the industry at events, sharing insights about how forestry professionals can work with government regulations, direction and prescriptions. At the Ontario Professional Forester Association Annual Conference this year, he gave a presentation called, “Registered Professional Foresters – Cooks or Chefs,” in which he equated following government directions to cooks following a recipe, whereas professional foresters’ training and education allows them to be innovative and creative in achieving a healthy, growing forest, like a chef, Legg shares.

“Not many people are as passionate as Ian about ensuring the forest is available for all stakeholders, while ensuring a sustainable wood supply,” Legg says. “Those who know Ian can attest to his positive attitude and desire to work with all parties.”

Green Jobs Manager, Sustainable Forestry Initiative, Ottawa

This past summer, 25-year-old Zachary Wagman could be found riding a wooden bike across the country, promoting Project Learning Tree Canada (PLT Canada)’s Green Jobs program. PLT Canada, an initiative of SFI, received funding from the federal government to support over 2,000 youths in green jobs last summer and this past summer, explains Jessica Kaknevicius, Zac’s co-worker.

As the green jobs manager, Zac has been instrumental in reaching out to employers, to youth and administering the program, she says.

Last fall, Zac proposed biking across Canada to visit forestry employers and youth, to bring to life their stories of working in green jobs. He provided a comprehensive plan that outlined all aspects of the campaign, planning to bike over 9,000 kilometres, taking some non-traditional routes along the way to meet with employers and employees.

Biking across the country was one of Zac’s personal goals, and this campaign allowed him to achieve that dream while also connecting with SFI’s partners and communicating the youth working in green jobs.

“For us to be able to get these stories and connect with these partners would take years and a lot of travel time,” says Kaknevicius. But Zac was able to do this in just five months, starting his bike ride in Victoria in May and finishing in Newfoundland in September.

Along the way, he was able to meet hundreds of youth in green jobs, sharing their work experiences and advice for future youth on social media.

“His social feed has been entertaining and educational – and the campaign has really brought together partners across the country committed to growing Green Jobs in the forest and conservation sectors,” says Kaknevicius.

“I’ve been in this sector now for over 15 years, and to have something that is really positive, that’s bringing people together across the country, has been quite inspiring,” she adds.

And SFI will be able to use the content and stories Zac has gathered for years to come. The videos Zac took will be developed into a documentary highlighting the different people he met and their experience in the industry. The videos will also be promoted online to raise public awareness about opportunities in forestry, and will be used in classrooms along with educational resources.

Zac’s bike adventure might be over, but its impact will be felt throughout the industry for years to come. Zac, who did not have previous experience in the industry before joining SFI, has also become more engaged and educated, says Kaknevicius.

“He’s doing great things for the industry and I think it’s just the start of what’s to come,” she concludes.

Control Systems Specialist, Tolko Industries Ltd., Armstrong, B.C.

The first woman to be a control systems specialist at Tolko’s Armstrong mill, Jessica “is blazing a trail for others to follow!” says Dwayne Bueckert, Jessica’s supervisor.

Although she has only been a part of the control systems team for a year, Jessica has already proved herself to be a leader and a vital part of the mill’s operations, he adds.

Last year, she designed and commissioned a pneumatic positioning system through Tolko’s Innovation Project program. “It was the first time implementing this type of technology and she brought a fresh set of ideas and solutions to each challenge,” Bueckert says. “She drove the project forward with a success well beyond expectations.”

She also used this project as her final capstone project at the University of British Columbia and won first place in the electrical division.

One of FPAC’s 2018 Green Dream Scholars, at 24 years old, Jessica already has a number of accomplishments. She was chosen as the valedictorian in her graduating class of 300 engineers, graduating with a mechanical engineering degree (with distinction); she won the Dr. Gordon Springate Senior Award in Engineering for her volunteer work in her community; and she was recognized as one of the University of British Columbia’s Applied Science rising stars for her academics and above caliber efforts.

Dr. Najjaran, Jessica’s university professor, says she is one of the “most ambitious, intelligent and hard-working students,” he has ever encountered.

“With the current rate of technological advancement, we strongly believe the ambition, creativity and innovation that Jessica has will be what keeps this industry going,” Bueckert adds. “We truly believe she is one of the best and brightest in the industry!”

Owner and president, Townsend Lumber Inc., Tilsonburg, Ont.

A lot has changed for Mike Penner, owner and president of Townsend Lumber, in the past six years. In 2013, Mike was the project superintendent for a local general contracting business, but he switched to forestry after his father-in-law offered him the position of general manager at Townsend Lumber.

“Mike’s first years with the company were challenging, learning the logging and lumber industry while working hard to earn trust and respect from his new colleagues,” Laura Townsend, Mike’s spouse and business partner, says.

But Mike, 38, has since made a number of key cultural changes at the company, improving communication, teamwork, accountability and a focus on quality, Townsend says. Mike has also built key relationships with local private landowners and logging contractors.

In October 2016, Mike’s father-in- law decided to retire. Mike and Laura purchased the company, along with their other related companies, Kitchener Forest Products, Breeze Dried Inc., and BreezeWood Floors, collectively forming the ‘Townsend Penner Group of Companies.’ Since then, Mike has been managing all aspects of these companies, including the raw material supply, production and sales of their three sawmills. Together, the group of companies now has 170 employees and produces over 18 mmbf of high-quality lumber annually.

Mike has also overseen many significant equipment upgrades and projects since he became the owner, focused on improving product quality and consistency. A member of the board of directors for the local Norfolk Woodlot Owners Association, he has become increasingly involved in the industry, working with local municipalities to improve timber harvesting bylaws to protect and preserve southwestern Ontario’s woodlots.

He has also worked with Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) on several research projects, says Dr. Chris MacQuarrie, research scientist at NRCan, Canada Forest Service.

Mike provided research support and technical information to inform the design and implementation of a research project on the effect of the sawmilling process on reducing the risk of exporting emerald ash borer-infested wood, shares MacQuarrie.

“The results of this research were, and continue to be, used by the Canadian government to convince trading partners that Canadian wood products present little risk to forests overseas from the introduction of potentially-invasive pests,” MacQuarrie explains.

“This research was the first-of-its-kind in the world, and would not have been possible without the help of Mike and his team at Townsend Lumber,” he adds. “He went above and beyond to assist us with this work and I feel that this important contribution will continue to pay dividends for both Townsend and the Canadian forestry industry.”

Co-owner/operator, Firewood Factory NL, St. John’s

“Kaylen Janes is passionately working to modernize the firewood sector in Newfoundland and Labrador – and to build a community-minded business providing sustainably, legally harvested firewood to the St. John’s area,” says Danny Reid, Kaylen’s friend.

Kaylen, 36, and her husband Luke launched the Firewood Factory in 2016, after a downturn in the offshore oil industry left Luke without a job, just as he and Kaylen were starting a family.

Their company was “a dream come true borne out of necessity,” says Reid.

“Cutting firewood and using wood as a source of heat has long been part of Newfoundland and Labrador culture, embraced by both Kaylen and Luke. But what was missing locally was a business that brought modern sensibilities to the beloved tradition.”

Firewood Factory delivers high-quality wood, harvested in a sustainable way, meeting environmental standards and forest management principles. Kaylen previously worked for Newfoundland and Labrador’s provincial Environmental Assessment Division, reviewing the province’s five-year forest management plans. She brings this understanding and experience to her business. A member of the Newfoundland and Labrador Environmental Industry Association (NEIA) and the NL Forestry Industry Association, she also advocates for a modern forestry industry in the province.

Kaylen is also a member of the Newfoundland and Labrador Organization of Women Entrepreneurs (NLOWE) and the Forestry Work Plan Steering Committee – an eight-month strategic planning process that resulted in a final report, “The Way Forward on Forestry.”

In marketing her business, Kaylen focuses on education, using traditional and social media to raise awareness about how to store and burn wood safely and efficiently, and to encourage people to only buy sustainably and legally harvested wood, says Reid. Kaylen and Luke also run community outreach programs, including “Warm Hearts,” a Christmas-time initiative to give free firewood to families in need.

General Manager, Dunkley Lumber – Edgewood Division, Carrot River, Sask.

Since he was 19, Trevor Reid has been working in the wood products industry, starting as a junior woodlands accountant with the Slocan Group in Mackenzie, B.C. After a few years with the company, he was recruited to Saskatchewan and has held a variety of roles in forestry companies since then.

Now 39 years old, Trevor joined Edgewood Forest Products as the general manager in 2015 and has overseen the growth of the mill from 70 to 130 million board feet per year, while maintaining a sharp focus on safety and cleanliness, says Kris Hayman, Trevor’s supervisor.

“Trevor is an excellent communicator, takes proactive steps to improve all aspects of the operation and can be counted on to motivate and mentor each member of his team at Edgewood,” Hayman says. “Over the past four years that I have had the pleasure of working with Trevor, he has shown a strong desire to learn and grow as a leader in the wood products manufacturing industry.

“His steady and positive manner gives those under his charge the confidence to explore new ideas and opportunities to further improve the operation,” Hayman adds.

With a background in finance and forestry, Trevor has an excellent base of knowledge, and has continued to expand his knowledge by taking several courses, including CGA studies, public speaking courses, and becoming a designated professional director. His education serves him well as a member of the board of the Sakâw Askiy Management Corporation, a partnership of six forest companies including Edgewood and two First Nations partners who jointly manage a Saskatchewan forest management area (FMA).

Outside of the industry, Trevor enjoys spending time with his wife, Renee, and their three young children, watching and coaching their sports and activities.

Mechanic, foreman, operator, D.R. Holtom Ltd., Terrace, B.C.

Ryan, Kyle and Garth Holtom have been in the forest industry working in their family business for years.

Ryan, the eldest brother, now 29 years old, was initially interested in pursuing carpentry. After high school, he took a four-year carpentry course. When he was home on breaks from school, he enjoyed working in the shop on the forestry equipment, and consequently chose to pursue his heavy-duty mechanic and welding apprenticeships.

Today, he takes care of the day-to-day requirements in the shop and is beginning to learn the office procedures, including safety orientations, contract interpretation and monitoring the purchasing and pricing.

Kyle, meanwhile, has been interested in the industry from a young age, visiting logging sites with his dad. By age 13, he was helping walk loaders into the job sites. Officially, Kyle has been working in the industry for 10 years, but “he really has been part of the industry longer than his employed years,” Kaitlyn Lewis, Ryan’s partner, says.

After high school, Kyle got his welding ticket and began working in the shop. His years out on the sites made him a pro at troubleshooting when equipment broke down on-site. But eventually he decided he preferred to run equipment instead of working on it and returned to the forests, now as a foreman/operator. At 28 years old, “he is now a very good operator, can run and enjoys running all equipment, especially on steep slopes,” Lewis says. Kyle also does all of the company’s line boring and is learning contract negotiation and job quoting.

Twenty-four-year-old Garth, like his older brothers, also began working in a different business, this time in gas line clearing and road maintenance. But the draw of logging and forestry led him back to the family business, and, over the years, he has worked his way through the ranks. Now an operator, he runs a processor and can drive logging and lowbed trucks. He can also easily adapt to running other machines as needed.

“At fairly young ages, the boys had earned respect from other operators and business people,” Lewis says. “All three boys can be relied on to step into any day to day activities. It doesn’t matter the day or the hours. They work very long hours and sometimes give up their weekends, but they have decided that the forest industry is where they want to be.”

Owner, Clay Hill Equipment Inc., Doaktown, N.B.

At the age of 24, Andrew Betts dreamed of being a large forestry contractor. Now 33 years old, Andrew has built-up quite the business as the owner of Clay Hill Equipment Inc.

Achieving this goal has taken years of hard work. Andrew started with a forwarder, working around the clock with two other operators, explains Ryan McLaughlin, operations superintendent with AV Group NB, a company Andrew supplies logs for.

Year after year, Andrew invested in new technology and machinery. Today, Andrew owns a feller buncher, six harvesters, four forwarders, two self-loading trucks, a float, a dozer and an excavator. He mixes and matches this equipment to find the most efficient way to cut trees and increase his productivity.

Making sure he has done the best job possible is key for Andrew, says McLaughlin.

“A lot of contractors like to stay small because, they all tell you, ‘I’d like to buy another machine if I had two good operators,’” says McLaughiln. “But with Andrew, he attracts good employees.” This has helped him expand his operations.

Like any logger, Andrew has had to overcome some challenges, particularly in the first few years as he started up his business. But Andrew put his head down and made sure he and his team did the best job possible.

“He doesn’t go and complain to you. All he says is, ‘Hey, is my job top-notch? If not, let me know,’” McLaughlin says. “The big thing with Andrew, him and his team, everything’s neat and tidy. If there’s anything wrong with his jobs out there, you just have to mention it to Andrew and it gets fixed.

“He has grown his business into a high-performing team, and his work is always completed with full effort in terms of job quality and productivity,” he adds.

Now, Andrew cuts a significant amount in the province, consistently over-delivering on what he has promised, McLaughlin says. This year, Andrew aimed to harvest and deliver 200,000 m3 of wood, but McLaughlin says he will realistically cut 250,000 m3.

With such a large operation, Andrew has made a big impact in his small community. Doaktown, N.B., has a population of 792 people, and Andrew employs 20 of them, cutting all of Devon Lumber’s allocation on private woodlots, and cutting for AV Group NB on crown blocks. And it’s unlikely that Andrew plans to stop there.

Contractor, Exploitation forestière JRBR, Ducharme La Tuque, Que.

“You have chosen the king!” This was the reaction of Bruno Perron’s father and partner, Jean-Roch, when he was told that his son has been selected as one of forestry’s future stars.

With a line of loggers that goes back to his great-grandfather, Bruno has been in his element in the forest from a young age, when he accompanied his father in the forest, dreaming of becoming an operator.

After completing high school, he obtained a vocational diploma in timber felling and shaping at CFP Dolbeau-Mistassini. A few years after working full-time, at just 24 years old, the Saint-Prime, Que., native decided to launch his own company, Exploitation forestière JRBR, along with his father and in partnership with Remabec.

Eight years later, the business, which now employs two people in addition to two shareholders, is running at full speed, working with a Tigercat 855 harvester with a Ponsse H7 head and a Komatsu 895 forwarder.

Bruno makes a point of paying attention to his team, considering their experiences in the field and their comments. He does not hesitate to apply their ideas on things like working hours and optimizing travel.

A versatile worker, Bruno is simultaneously an excellent operator, mechanic and administrator, along with being at ease with electronics. Bruno also stands out for his positive leadership: he cares about his employees’ well-being and is a modest, fair and honest man.

To continue to improve his skills, Bruno participated in a development program for entrepreneurs at a centre that specializes in multi-resource entrepreneurship last spring. He found this training extremely relevant because, in addition to helping with his accounting, it helped him improve his human resources skills.

The 31-year-old is still passionate about the forest. “I like the challenge of having to manage several aspects to remain profitable,” he says. He does not see himself working in an office, or with the general public, because he prefers the freedom that the forest offers him.

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