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Ontario should blow its horn

Sept. 18, 2014 – Ontario wood industry experts met last night in Burlington for a social evening of chatting and problem solving over drinks and appetisers. The biggest problem on the table was the need to build a bigger tribe of forestry professionals.

Yuill McGregor, from North on Sixty and a member of the Ontario Wood Products Association recently returned from BC Wood's Global Buyers Mission where he was blown away by the popular event. He wanted to know why Ontario doesn't have a similar event, even on a smaller scale.

"The Ontario Wood Export Association, we're got something like 35 members but BC Wood's got maybe only 100 members," said McGregor. "So it's not a big gulf."

McGregor pointed out that there's a lot of greatness in Ontario wood products that isn't currently being showcased to the world. "Ontario wood should start to flex its muscles. Are we happy with where we are? It's the status quo. We could certainly be doing better."

Many of the attendees agreed that there hasn't been much promotion of Ontario products but that social events that bring manufacturers together with suppliers and customers can only be good for the industry and help attendees build their businesses.

"This is more of a not-for-profit, relaxed atmosphere that's good for the industry," said one attendee comparing it to other venues he's attended as a supplier to the industry.

The people in attendance agreed that they would promote the event to help build the industry's resources and partnerships. But even as it was, the group of around 15 manufacturers and suppliers was engaged and committed.

Organized and funded by FPInnovations, the social networking group meets once a month at a restaurant in Burlington (next meeting will be on October 22). Attendance is free and open to anyone in the industry, anyone who wants to be in the industry or even who just has a general interest in wood products. The idea is for people to get to gether to find common ground and solve problems but the group has a lot of potential to grow as demand for wood products grows too.

Alain Albert is the one who hatched the idea and found backing through FPInnovations to set the wheels in motion. He sees it as a place where customers can meet new suppliers and people can pool resources.

In an industry where one tree can provide the fibre and fuel for many end products, it just makes sense for people to work together. "For some reason, the manufacturing crowd here, they're not into joining forces, going out," says Albert.

"What we need to do as a group, is to try to make sure that everytime we come out, we drag somebody with us," said McGregor. "And I'm making a commitment right now to do that because what we need to do is we need to build our brand."

If you have an interest in Ontario's wood, find out more at wisnet.ca.

September 18, 2014  By  Amie Silverwood

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