Introducing CFI’s Top 10 under 40
By Canadian Forest Industries Staff
Oct. 17, 2016 - In every industry there are young, standout employees who bring passion, enthusiasm and new ideas to their workplaces. In the forest industry, those bright stars are helping shape the logging and sawmilling companies of tomorrow, and Canadian Forest Industries wants to celebrate their successes.
By Canadian Forest Industries Staff
For the fourth year, we are recognizing top under-40 workers in the industry. From a logging operations supervisor in Nova Scotia to an accountant with a bachelor of science in forestry in Vancouver, our list of winners spans across several fields and provinces. While this list is the top 10, one entry from Quebec is a family of three who are making a difference in their community.
The stories speak for themselves. Allow us to introduce you to this year’s Top 10 under 40.
*Nominate someone for next year’s Top 10 Under 40 here.
Engineering superintendent, West Fraser, Slave Lake Pulp, Alta.
Shannon Fehr is a powerhouse player in Alberta’s bioenergy world.
Shannon’s career with West Fraser began in 2007 when she started as a junior process engineer. Today the 39-year-old is a trusted and knowledgeable source for improving the production and quality initiatives at West Fraser’s Slave Lake Pulp mill in Alberta. Shannon is part of Slave Lake Pulp’s energy team, pushing innovative ideas and bringing them to fruition as the engineering superintendent.
Shannon most recently managed a $40-million bioenergy project that led to Canada’s first biogas plant that produces energy to run the mill and captures waste heat to use in the mill’s manufacturing process. The project uses the mill’s effluent to produce energy using biological organisms, reducing the mill’s reliance on the province’s power grid.
Under Shannon’s leadership, the project – which received funding support from the Canada ecoTrust for Clean Air and Alberta’s Climate Change and Emissions Management Corporation – came in under budget and met unique technical goals. The project is expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 37,000 tonnes annually.
“Shannon’s cheerful, professional, and hardworking nature has gained her acknowledgement as a top engineer in the forest industry,” says colleague Tara Knight. “Shannon deserves to be recognized for her outstanding achievements as both a professional engineer and committed innovator in the forest industry.”
Operations supervisor, Hugh MacInnis Lumber Ltd., Frenchvale, N.S.
Work ethic is Brian Martinello’s superpower; or at least it is what accounts for his career progression for Hugh MacInnis Lumber Ltd. in Nova Scotia.
Twelve years ago Brian joined the company as a tree planter. Two years later, his hard work served to promote him to planting crew boss, and soon after, silviculture foreman. Under Brian’s supervision, the operation grew to 20 planters and 12 spacing saw operators, and, with the boost in organization, planting production increased by 50 per cent.
Over time, Brian became more and more involved in the company’s harvesting operations.
“He was quickly respected by our machine operators for his focus, as well as his ability and willingness to learn all aspects of the operation,” company owner Brent MacInnis says. Brian soon took on a leadership role in all facets of the company’s operations, including pallet manufacturing, trucking and fuelwood, under the title of operations supervisor. With his input and vision, the company revamped its fleet of machines to newer, more productive equipment.
Brian, 36, is responsible for troubleshooting with mechanics and ordering parts, and is well respected by equipment dealerships that the company works with, MacInnis says. “Brian’s excellent work ethic has allowed our company to progress and remain competitive in an always challenging industry.”
Sawmill manager, Pacific Timber, Burns Lake, B.C.
The list of Karl Garrett’s skills reads like a job description for the perfect employee: innovative, leads by example, open to asking for help, develops a safe work culture.
Karl, 39, has worked for Pacific Timber in Burns Lake, B.C., for five-and-a-half years. As a sawmill manager, he is responsible for two sawmill sites and is actively involved in setting set up a third. Under Karl’s management, 100 per cent of the timber that enters the mills becomes value-added wood product in the form of cants or chips.
Karl also worked closely with the company’s general manager to successfully procure and harvest burned wood from a forest fire and turn it into cants, while using the residual in the pellet plant industry.
Putting his marketing skills to good use, Karl has successfully introduced new products to the marketplace and built niche markets. He actively works with brokers to achieve the best value for export wood.
When it comes to the community, co-worker Kevin Porowski said Karl understands the value of the local workforce. “Karl has been able to utilize the native labour pool filling 45 per cent of our needs with native workers,” he said. “These workers hold positions of responsibility and leadership.”
Electrical plant manager, USNR, Salmon Arm, B.C.
Adrienne Bootsma is an inspiration to any young person considering a career in the forestry industry.
The 39-year-old began her career as a student on a co-op work term for USNR in 1998, and in 10 years she progressed to become the electrical plant manager in Salmon Arm, B.C.
Adrienne’s passion for health and safety in the workplace is benefitting USNR and its employees, notes her colleague, Colleen Schonheiter. “Adrienne Bootsma is a testament that hard work, dedication and vision are attributes that can help anyone succeed.”
Adrienne heads USNR’s Joint Health and Safety Committee and is certified in OFA Level 3 and Laser Safety officer. In January 2015 she began a Masters of Business Administration (MBA) graduate degree with focus on health and safety leadership through the University of Fredericton. She will complete this program in fall 2016.
“Safety is one of those unique things that brings together workers, managers, customers and vendors, as we seek a common goal,” Adrienne says. “I have witnessed the evolution of focus on safety in our industry. While we still have cuts and falls from hazards that are ‘seen’, we now deal with hazards and risks that emerge from the ‘unseen’ – ergonomics, laser, UV and X-ray radiation, to name a few.
“Our industry employs a host of technological advances, and with them sometimes comes an element of risk. Mitigating that risk and finding a workable solution for all stakeholders, overcoming challenges and keeping workers safe, I really enjoy those aspects.”
Vice-president of finance, Conifex Timber Inc., Vancouver
Over a period of just five years, Adam Infanti has been an integral part of Conifex Timber Inc.’s growth story. The 37-year-old accountant is a CPA, CGA, and has a Bachelor of Science in Forestry from UBC.
“Adam is the all-too-rare accountant that has a very strong operations perspective and empathizes with his colleagues in woodlands and on the shop floor. We really appreciate having Adam in his finance role but believe he would be equally competent and successful in an operational role,” notes Conifex CFO Yuri Lewis.
Adam joined Conifex in March 2011 as corporate controller and became vice-president of finance in late 2012. Over the past five years, he has worked tirelessly to develop and improve Conifex’s business systems and processes.
Adam recruited and developed a high-performance finance, accounting and IT team for Conifex, and he continuously mentors and guides members, particularly on the operations side of the business. He also led the development of business and accounting systems, processes and policies necessary to report financials that comply with public company reporting requirements, and tailored management information systems to deliver information real-time for business decision support to executive management and business unit leaders.
He currently serves as chair of the Audit Committee of Council of Forest Industries.
“Adam is thoughtful, conscientious, leads by example and has developed respectful relationships with his colleagues. He has business acumen and judgment, which belies his young age. And as an added bonus, he is fun to work with,” Yuri says.
Safety manager – Wood Products, Canfor, Vancouver
Matthew Franks has a good reason to excel at his job. Matt, 35, became a new father last fall, and the new responsibilities that come with fatherhood have given him a fresh perspective on the reasons for working safely.
“From sawmills, to plywood, to kraft pulp, Matt has experienced many aspects of our industry and now holds a leadership role in safety with the goal that our employees return home safely to their families every day,” co-worker Duncan Smith says.
Matt’s 10-year tenure with Canfor began when he took on an hourly position in cleanup/production. From there, he progressed to quality control supervisor, human resources manager, and now his current position: safety manager for Canfor’s Canadian Solid Wood operations.
The forest industry and the field of human resources are in Matt’s family; his father is an HR generalist and he has worked in forestry and heavy industry his entire career.
Matt is a graduate of the University of Northern British Columbia in Prince George. He holds a certificate in human kinetics from the College of New Caledonia and the designation of CHRP (Certified Human Resources Practitioner).
Forest entrepreneur, Baufor, La Minerve, Que.
When he was 16, Cedrik Baudart bought a skidder, his first forestry machine. Since he was still in school, he started to work on weekends for a forest entrepreneur. “I have always wanted to be a lumberjack, even if nobody in my family works in forestry,” he says.
To learn more about this profession, he went to professional school and earned two diplomas, one on manual tree falling followed by a formation on mechanized harvesting. Then, at 17 years old, he made the big jump and launched his own forest business, Baufor.
Working in La Minerve, Que., near Mont-Tremblant, Cedrik does selective harvesting on private woodlands where species, like maple and oak, can be found. “We only harvest one out of three trees and we still take out good volumes. And 15 years later, we can go back again,” he says. Each year, Cedrik tries to buy a more recent machine, while growing his business. His last acquisition was a Timberjack 450.
The 20-year-old admits he finds it hard to find good employees. “Youth don’t know about these careers, it’s a lot of fun to spend all day in the woods. I don’t feel like I am working. I feel more like I am going out to play with my machines,” notes Cedrik, who makes a very good salary as a modern-day lumberjack.
Mill manager, Resolute Forest Products, La Doré, Que.
Born and raised in a forestry family in Peribonka, in northern Lac-Saint-Jean, Que., Sylvain Goulet was never in doubt about his career. “I am born in the woods. I never had to make a decision. This is what I needed to do,” he says.
This is why Sylvain decided to study wood engineering at Laval University, a complete program that helped him learn about many challenges in the industry. A formation he liked so much that he became a program ambassador, giving conferences in schools around the province. “We need to change the youth perceptions and show them the wood ecological properties,” notes Sylvain.
Once out of university, he went to work for Arbec in his hometown of Peribonka, where his dad and granddad worked before him. First hired as the optimization and quality manager, he became the mill manager at 29 years old. He was later recruited by Resolute Forest Products to become the mill manager in La Doré, one of the biggest mills of the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean region. “My career plan went 10 years faster than I thought,” says the 37-year-old, who is in charge of 275 employees, spread out in three different mills (sawing, planing, finger-jointing).
Sylvain also participates in multiple board of directors (Chamber of commerce, Forest House) and in various initiatives to promote the industry, popularizing on YouTube how forestry works nowadays. “It’s rewarding to work with such a noble and renewable resource,” he says.
Carl Paul (Granules LG mill director), Suzie Paul, (Groupe ADL administrative director, Granules LG main shareholder), and Mélanie Paul, (Vice-president of Granules LG)
First Nations play an important role in forestry in Quebec. Mélanie, Suzie and Carl Paul, three entrepreneurs from Mashteuiatsh, an Innu community, want to create more wealth with mill and forest residues.
Owners of Granules LG, a Quebec top pellet producer with a 120,000-ton capacity, they want to keep this leader position and build new partnerships to bring the company to another level.
Teamwork and mutual help are part of the fundamental values for Granules LG managers, and Carl, being the mill manager, works to transmit these values to the 50 employees. Ongoing improvements and product quality are also major concerns not only for Carl, but for all his coworkers.
Taking care of the environment and of the Nitassinan, the ancestral territory, is also essential for the entrepreneurs, notes Suzie Paul, administrative director for Groupe ADL (Groupe LG main shareholders). “The forest has a great spiritual and cultural importance for First Nations. My grandfather and my father always taught me how important it is to respect the forest. It is our wealth,” she says.
As the Groupe ADL and Granules LG VP, Mélanie Paul takes care of public affairs, the family business development and partnerships. “Our business philosophy is to create win-win relationships, for us, our employees, our suppliers and for the local businesses. They are all partners and we can grow together,” says the entrepreneur who promotes entrepreneurship with First Nations, women and youth in schools. In October 2015, Mélanie was named by Philippe Couillard, Quebec PM, president of the First Nations table, to promote partnerships between regional businesses and First Nations through economic development projects.
Groupe Champoux shareholder and Saint-Michel mill president, Saint-Michel-des-Saints, Que.
Forester for the last three generations, Groupe Champoux shareholders, amongst them Jean-François Champoux, did not tolerate the local mill closure in Saint-Michel-des-Saints, Que. With one of the business branches, Forestier Champoux, they worked with about 20 local investors to re-launch the mill, essential for the vitality of the 2,500-person village.
Jean-François will be the one to lead the $13.2-million modernization project for the Saint-Michel mill, which is expected to reopen officially in mid-October. These investments will create around 100 jobs.
For Jean-François, it’s like going back to his roots, since he interned in this mill when he was studying automated electromechanical systems in Laval, Que.
“This is the best profession. Every morning, I play a different role where I need to find solutions to different challenges. For me, forestry is like a sport and I love to play the game,” he says. In 2008, he also became shareholder, with his uncle and cousin, of Sylvio Champoux et Fils, a business where he worked as a forestry road machine operator when he was younger.
The same year, he also invested in Forestiers Champoux, where he became the forest operation supervisor for the third-generation family business. As head of this company, he leads 150 employees, including subcontractors, to harvest nearly 500,000 m3 and sends the wood to Domtar, Commonwealth Plywood, Groupe Crête, Maibec and Saint-Michel mill.
Since 2015, Jean-François also helped create Groupe forestier Lanaudière (GFL) and Groupe forestier Mauricie (GFM), two forestry groups of 14 public wood supply beneficiaries. These groups hire Forestiers Champoux for forest engineering services in Lanaudière and Mauricie for operations over 450,000 m3. Over the last year, he also won 100,000 m3 of auctions awarded by the Quebec’s Wood Marketing Office.