Ontario forestry recovering slowly
April 10, 2015 – Listening to industry professionals at the Ontario Professional Foresters Association Conference and AGM in Toronto, one point was made abundantly clear: Ontario is recovering, but it is recovering slowly.
And while that may sound like a good reason for pessimism in the province’s forest industry, the experts were delivering a message that was just the opposite. The optimism being created by the slow market recovery is providing opportunity for growth into new product streams, the introduction of new technology to improve operations, and the chance to explore secondary markets.
Brian Nicks, Vice-President and Chief Forester at EACOM Timber Corporation, discussed a series of recent investments in both mills and staff that are leading the company into a solid position for continued growth alongside the Ontario forest sector. Among those investments was EACOM’s re-opening of its mill in Ear Falls with significant upgrades, and strategic investments in its Nairn Centre mill. The company currently produces 900mbft per year at its seven sawmills: five in Ontario and two in Quebec.
Nicks stated that three main factors were helping the recovery of the lumber industry in Ontario: the growth of the U.S. housing market, increased exports to China and the revised building codes allowing for mid-rise tall wood structures. That is assisting to provide a more diverse lumber market, one that isn’t just tied to the strength of the U.S. housing market.
Catherine Cobden, Executive Vice-President of the Forest Products Association of Canada (FPAC), also noted that recovery of the forest industry in Ontario has been slower than much of the rest of Canada, but the opportunity to diversify product streams has created additional reasons for optimism. Cobden also cited the new provisions for tall wood buildings, but also suggested that Ontario was primed to provide wood-based products for the automotive industry based on the strength of that sector in the province.
Cobden suggested that the key to the continued growth of the forest industry in Ontario will be the sector’s willingness to embrace innovations and integrate that innovation into existing operations. Should that happen, the forest industry’s recovery in Ontario may not be slow for much longer.