Wood Business

Features Mills Sawmilling
Top 20 under 40

Oct. 18, 2013 - Working diligently to find qualified, skilled young labourers to cut trees and make lumber for generations to come is not just the responsibility of the individual company. It takes a concentrated effort from contractors, corporations, associations and other primary stakeholders to promote the benefits of the forest industry to students across Canada looking for the right career opportunity.

For the inaugural Canadian Forest Industries’ Top 20 under 40, we are pleased to promote 20 of this country’s best young workers, who are role models for the next generation of Canada’s forest and wood products industry. From a rigging slinger in B.C. to a forest management owner in New Brunswick, the 20 individuals on this list cover a broad spectrum of the people involved in the day-to-day operations of this industry.

The information provided on each individual is a combination of the content provided by the nominator, conversations we have had with people in the industry and what we have learned through our own research.

Without further delay, we present the inaugural Canadian Forest Industries Top 20 under 40!

top20-GregStewartGreg Stewart, president, Sinclar Group Forest  Products
Greg Stewart has had his leadership tested and passed the test.

The president of Sinclar Group Forest Products since October 2009, Stewart was at the forefront of the tragic explosion at Lakeland sawmill. Greg’s leadership, compassion, determination and commitment to old-fashioned values of family and community were key to upholding the company’s reputation, maintaining the support of employees and ensuring the conditions were optimum for the happy announcement this year that the Lakeland mill will be rebuilt and operating by late 2014.

But the strength of Stewart’s work goes well beyond what happened at Lakeland. While maintaining rigorous focus on the primary business of lumber manufacturing, he has also driven value gains from all of the company’s product lines via strategic partnerships, including those with BC Hydro, the City of Prince George, the University of Northern British Columbia and the Nak’azdli First Nation.

Under Stewart’s leadership, Sinclar Group has seen a number of its business development initiatives recognized with industry-leading awards and titles, including BC Hydro Power Smart Leader, Exporter of the Year and one of the Top 25 B.C. Exporters by the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters.

Stewart serves as a director on the boards of the Council of Forest Industries, BC Wood, the International Bioenergy Conference and Exhibition Society, and Initiatives Prince George, where he is also chair of the Leadership Committee.

Dan O’Brien, owner, O’Brien Equipment
Dan O’Brien has become immersed in the business of forestry in British Columbia.

O’Brien started in the forest industry in Prince George with his first company, Bid Right Contracting, doing mechanical site prep and stump-to-dump contracts.

In 2006, he opened O’Brien Training, a training school for heavy equipment operators in the forestry, construction, oil & gas and mining sectors, and purchased Taylor Professional Driving, teaching Commercial Driving Classes 1-4, which include log hauling and low bedding experience.

He purchased Mack Brothers Logging, a Quesnel-based operation, in March 2012, and in that same year was nominated and awarded one of the Top 40 under 40 recognitions from the Prince George Chamber of Commerce.

Earlier this year, O’Brien opened his first used equipment dealership, O’Brien Equipment, specializing in new and used parts for forestry equipment.

top20-BenoitBarretteBenoit Barrette, president and GM, Barrette-Chapais Ltée and BarretteWood inc.
Six hundred and fifty kilometres north of Montreal, the Barrette family has forever changed the dynamics of Chapais, a little village of 2,000 in the heart of the boreal forest. Benoit Barrette, 36, keeps the family legacy alive these days.

Romeo Barrette started the family business almost a century ago selling wood to pulp and paper companies. Benoit joined the family at a very young age, first working as a welder at the production line and later in sales and management.

In 1995, he went to business school at the British Columbia Institute of Technology. He came back in 2000 to become a full-time employee of Barrette. Eighteen months later, he became the general manager of BarretteWood.

Barrette is a powerful team of businesses composed of Barrette-Chapais Ltée, BarretteWood, Barrette Outdoor Living and Barrette Structural. All in all, the company has 2,800 employees distributed evenly in Canada and the U.S.

In 2005, Benoit Barrette started a new challenge when he went south of the border to improve the supply chain and the inventory management as the Barrette outdoor living VP for three years. In 2008, he became president of Barrette-Chapais Ltée, and since 2012, he is also the general manager. Nowadays, he is also the president and general manager of BarretteWood.

Benoit Barrette is responsible for the lumber sector and remanufactured wood for wood fencing and bed frames. He is in charge of the mills in Weedon, Roberval, Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu and Chapais.

Started as a small family business, Barrette now is one of North America’s largest manufacturers of vinyl and wood building materials, and outdoor living lines.

top20-MeganSmithMegan Smith, program specialist, forest bioeconomy, Ministry of Natural Resounces
Promoting the bioeconomy in central Ontario is not easy work, but it’s work that Megan Smith is happy to do.

With her passion for forestry and innovation, Smith has been instrumental in developing initiatives that help shift the industry toward a sustainable future. She plays an active role in promoting the bioeconomy throughout northwestern Ontario. Early in her career, as the project manager of the Biomass Innovation Centre at Nipissing University, she engaged with industry and academic stakeholders, chaired the Biomass Network Group and presented at industry seminars and conferences.

She has developed strategies to create growth within the forestry sector and has developed popular seminars and events to promote awareness of sustainable forestry.

Smith has been an active member of the Canadian Institute of Forestry since 2004 and is currently the director of the Algonquin Section.

She recently left the Biomass Innovation Centre for a new role at the Ministry of Natural Resources, where she is now a program specialist for forest bioeconomy.

Tyler Hodgkinson, woods manager, Kalesnikoff Lumber Co.
Tyler Hodgkinson’s interest in forestry grew out of a job planting seedlings and led him to forestry school. Hodgkinson graduated with a forestry diploma from Selkirk College in 1997 and a bachelor of science in forestry from the University of British Columbia in 2000. A registered professional forester since 2002, he has spent most of his career in silviculture, where he was responsible for planting 37 million trees. The last five years were spent as a silviculture forester with Interfor in Grand Forks.

Hodgkinson has been an active member of the Boundary Woodlot Association for eight years, advocating the creation of new woodlots in the Boundary region.

He is a member of the Grand Forks Wildlife Association and B.C. Wildlife Federation where he is involved in wildlife restoration projects. He helped facilitate a professional reliance workshop for Association of British Columbia Forest Professionals (ABCFP) members and participated with the Kettle River Watershed group.

Earlier this year, Hodgkinson accepted the position of woods manager for Kalesnikoff Lumber Co. in Thrums, B.C.. This honour is well deserved as he has proven himself to be a leader through hard work and dedication to his forestry career.

Top20-SimonRoySimon Roy, general manager, Coopérative forestière de la Matapédia
After graduating from Laval University as a forest engineer in 2010, Simon Roy was offered the opportunity he was dreaming about: working in the forest where he grew up. Roy has always had a great connection with the forest, having been born and raised in the Matapédia region and grown up fishing, hunting and logging on the family woodlot. And today, he continues to live his passion. “I am proud to help people to continue to make a living from the forest,” he says.

The Coopérative forestière de la Matapédia (CFM) was not even looking for a young engineer, but seeing the enthusiasm of the local boy, they made some room for him. Two years later, he became the operations director.

Now 27, he has settled back in his hometown, St-Alexandre-des-Lac, and he thinks the Matapédian has a flourishing future. “We need to diversify our operations and tie the environmental concerns with the economy,” he says. And this is exactly what his co-op is doing. With “rural laboratory” funding they received a couple years ago, it launched a new trend of biomass-heated buildings and networks. The technology is working so well that five projects have sprouted up and many others are on track.

Every year, the 75 members and other workers of the co-operative harvest 240,000 cubic metres of nine different tree species.

Simon Roy sees himself making his way to the top of the ladder over the years. “I want to [add]grist to the mill. I want to help diversify and find young guys to step up in the co-op. I want people to be proud to work here.”

Top20-RussVaagenRuss Vaagen, vice-president, Vaagen Fibre Canada
Russ Vaagen is providing an example of how to implement smart and sustainable business practices in both the logging and sawmilling industries.

The vice-president of Vaagen Fibre Canada also plays an important role at Vaagen Bros. Lumber in Colville, Wash.

On the Canadian side, Russ has been instrumental in the successful re-opening of the shut-down
Pope and Talbot sawmill in Midway, B.C. To ensure the project’s success, Vaagen made the difficult decision to shrink the mill from a three-line mill to a very efficient single small-log line.

On the American side, Vaagen has been vital in helping to establish a strong working relationship between forestry and environmental interests in the thinning of national park lands in northeastern Washington.

Russ also is involved in a number of industry groups and lobbies in both Canada and the U.S. working for a stronger forest industry.

top20-JonathonLokJonathan Lok, managing partner, Strategic Group
In the wake of arguably the most challenging forestry business environment in decades, Jonathan Lok did the unthinkable: he co-founded Strategic Group, a multidisciplinary professional consulting firm that specializes in natural resource management.

Under Lok’s leadership, Strategic Group, based in British Columbia, works with stakeholders offering insightful solutions to a range of tactical challenges. Recognized as the go-to firm in coastal forest management, the company also tackles prominent projects throughout Western Canada, including the Toba Inlet Run-of-River project; development and delivery of North Island College’s Woodlands Harvesting Certificate; development and management of the North Coast Trail; and Forest fire suppression training and response across B.C. and Alberta, just to name a few. Utilizing an interdisciplinary approach and building positive rapport with clients, Strategic Group continues to grow as a respected leader in the industry

After gaining his Registered Forest Technologist (RFT) designation in 2004, Lok became the first RFT president of the ABCFP, received the Forest Technologist of the Year award in 2011 and currently serves as president of the Consulting Foresters of B.C.

He has become a standout leader, dedicated to serving the industry through strategic vision and positively influencing the industry’s future.

Top20-GenevieveGeneviève Bernier, president, COFOR, and forestry superintendent, Boisaco
Born and raised in a forestry family at St-Pascal-de-Kamouraska near Rimouski, Que., Geneviève Bernier has sap that runs through her body. After her forestry studies in CÉGEP, Bernier worked for private woodland owners, went on for a measuring job in Témiscamingue and spent some time working for the Ministry of Natural Resources at Lebel-sur-Quévillon.

While she was becoming a forest engineer at the University of Moncton department in Edmundston, she spent her summers working for Kruger and Plani-Forêt in Parent.

When she graduated in 2009, she had worked in most of the northern and isolated areas of Québec and she was ready to take on a new challenge.

Boisaco, one of the biggest independent lumber producers in Québec, recruited Bernier as the environmental co-ordinator. One year later, she moved to the planning department for a few months and became the forestry superintendent.

“Boisaco is a small business that punches above its weight,” states the 31-year-old, who was able to make it up the corporate ladder rapidly. Boisaco is a mill owned by two co-operatives, one of which – COFOR (Coopérative des travailleurs forestiers de Ste-Marguerite) – Bernier heads up. The company’s 500 workers transform roughly 500,000 cubic metres yearly.

Clearly, she loves her jobs. “For me, going out in the woods means freedom. No phone, no paperwork, just listening to the forest,” she says. According to her general manager, André Gilbert, she is a rising star. “Geneviève has a great leadership, dynamism, work efficiency and adaptability. She is always ready to face new challenges and she brings positivism to our team.”

Aside from her daily job at Boisaco and COFOR, she also participates in integrated management committees (tables GIR) and the committee on the recovery strategy for the woodland caribou.

Mathieu Leblanc, owner, ACFOR Forest Management
The goal of providing a strong forest management model is at the core of Mathieu Leblanc’s work in the industry.

As the owner of ACFOR, Leblanc is working with logging companies throughout Atlantic Canada to provide new solutions for sustainable forest management. He is working to train the next generation of loggers on best practices that will help provide sustainable cuts of wood for generations to come. He is also working towards bioenergy solutions for the province, recognizing the potential markets for wood chip and wood pellet energy that currently exist in New Brunswick and P.E.I.

Leblanc’s work in sustainable forest management has won him regional awards of excellence, including the Southeast New Brunswick Wood Marketing Board Forest Management Award, and he has spoken about ACFOR’s work at conferences around the world.

top20-JeromeSimardJérôme Simard, general manager, Coopérative forestière Girardville
Jérôme Simard’s first contact with forestry came at age 16, when he bought a woodlot. He didn’t know then how much it would change his life. First of all, managing his woodlot allowed him to earn enough money to pay for his studies in CEGEP; and second, he realized he liked the forest so much he went on to study forest engineering at Laval University in Quebec City.

It wasn’t long before his entrepreneurial fibre lit up again. During his last year at Laval, in 1999, he launched Aztek Développement Forestier, his first forestry company. In 2003, he made a move to Lac-Saint-Jean, where he became the operations director for the Coopérative forestière Girardville. “I’ve always been an entrepreneur and I did not want to work for somebody else. A co-operative was a great fit for me because I am a co-owner,” says Simard, who at 39 is still an entrepreneur.

With the increasing environmental and governmental pressures, everybody has to do more with less. Simard thus helped diversify the co-operative. Since he became the general manager in 2006, he started subsidiary companies specializing in biomass, non-timber forest products (NTFP), log transport and roadbuilding. One such company has built an oversized wood transformation mill that was set to open in September 2013.

“Our mission is to give added value to the forest territory,” states Simard, who wants to find any means to consolidate the co-operative jobs.

The Coopérative forestière Girardville is the most important forest management company in Quebec, planting, amongst other things, more than 20 million trees yearly. The co-op also owns unique equipment in North America, such as a M36 and the mechanical planter Bracke P11.a.

Jérôme Simard also is the president of the Coopérative des PFNL du Québec (NTFP co-op), president of the Association pour la commercialization des PFNL du Québec (NTFP provincial association) and vice-president of the Coopérative de valorisation de la biomasse (biomass co-op).

TOP20-SethAndJesseTaylorSeth and Jesse Taylor, planing mill operations and chipping mill operations, Taylor Lumber
Family roots are strong in Canada’s forest industry, but few are stronger than at Taylor Lumber in Nova Scotia, the home of Seth and Jesse Taylor.

Both are part of the third generation of Taylors involved in the management of Taylor Lumber, located in Middle Musquodoboit, N.S. The brothers join their sister in the main office, while another brother works part time as an equipment operator. Jesse and Seth are following in the footsteps of their grandfather Frank, who founded the mill, as well as their father, Robert, the current owner.

Both brothers have been imperative in driving the business forward as Taylor Lumber looks for new opportunities to expand its operation. Jesse is in charge of the chip plant operations, the expansion of which has helped provide an option to buy pulp wood logs from local suppliers. Seth is in charge of the planing mill operations, which helps ensure that Taylor Lumber continues to produce the high-quality lumber that has helped to sustain the operation through difficult times in the timber market in Atlantic Canada.

Sheldon Peters, rigging  slinger/foreman, Peters Contract Falling
Sheldon Peters got an earlier start than most foresters currently working in Canada.

Peters started as a 16 year-old chokerman. Eager and determined, he has since held all positions within Peters Contract Falling, a high lead logging company in Milton, Ont., and is currently supervising one of the company’s mini tower crews.

Peters’ desire to learn all aspects of logging spurred him to take the heavy equipment operator’s course, in which he received honours standing.

His goal is to be self-employed within the logging industry with own his own log loader. He is currently doing apprentice hours on a log loader during any down time he has in order to meet that goal.

His safety-first attitude has led him to the position of safety co-ordinator at Peters.

With all of that experience, it’s hard to believe he’s just 20 years old.

top20-MarkBannermanMark Bannerman, vice-president and general manager, Next Generation Forest Management
Building a team from the ground up was a challenge that Mark Bannerman was happy to take on.

Bannerman built and leads a team that provides harvesting, commercial thinning and silviculture services to corporate, Crown and private woodlots.

He has guided inexperienced operators to become efficient, resourceful, dedicated and conscientious in all aspects of the industry.

All operators, hired as novices in the industry, were trained by Bannerman to operate and maintain the most technical of equipment, to introduce on-board GPS systems to Next Generation’s fleet.

His team of 24, which helped Next Generation to double its production from 2000-05, now services private, industrial and Crown land including 440 hectares of PCT in 2012, and maintains files on approximately 150 private lots that it helps manage.

Through Stewart’s leadership, the team maintains enviable standards that have resulted in the CWF Contractor of the Year award for Nova Scotia in 2007 and a provincial BBB award for outstanding ethics in 2009.

Bannerman’s team represents the new generation of contractors: intelligent, organized and highly technical problem solvers dedicated to quality, sustainability and the environment while competently building forestry careers.

Top20-VincentRoyVincent Roy, researcher, FPInnovations
For Vincent Roy, the choice to become a forest engineer was easy: “It’s a great way to combine work and fun. I’ve always loved to play out in the woods,” said the 32 year old form St-Étienne-de-Lauzon.

When he graduated in 2004 from Laval University, he went to work for FERIC, the former name of FPInnovations, the world’s largest forestry research organization. He first started to study partial cut forest operations in coniferous and mixed forest. “The goal was to measure the productivity and the cost of the silviculture operations to make them profitable”, he said.

In 2012, he switched to transportation and energy, where his research is now focused on energy efficiency, fuel consumption, greenhouse gas reduction and computerized web platforms to monitor trucking performance.

In the near future, Vincent wants to help improve the image of forestry and the conditions of workers through innovation and optimization.

Top20-Tom-ThompsonTom Thompson, operations manager, Millar Western Forest Products
Rebuilding sawmills takes strong leaders at the forefront of the project, a role that Tom Thompson has excelled at for Millar Western.

Thompson was hired as the operations manager for Millar Western’s Fox Creek Division effective Jan. 2, 2011. The sawmill was previously destroyed by fire in August 2008 and the reconstruction commenced in June of 2010.

He played an integral role in the execution of the reconstruction, the upgrade of the planer mill and the recruitment of 65 employees.

Thompson also was in charge of managing most aspects of the employees’ work at the new mill, including the establishment of people management systems and the implemenation of Millar Western systems/processes with some site-specific development of systems and processes for the rebuilding of the Fox Station.

Since then, he has been responsible for implementing the entire Millar Western Product suite, including all specialty products. His work in the division, and the strong quality of the products, has led to success in establishing a strong customer base.

Lacey Rose, forester, County of Renfrew, Ont.
Lacey Rose has accomplished a lot in a very short time. Rose’s commitment to the development of strong forest management plans has led to the successful implementation of plans she has authored for the Bancroft-Minden Forest. She is co-author of an updated forest management plan for the County of Renfrew, and lead author of a forest management plan for the Town of Deep River, incorporating both urban and rural forests.

Rose also initiated OttawaValleyWood.com, a website and directory created to encourage  people to purchase wood products from local suppliers.

She is actively involved with several boards and committees, including the LCC for Algonquin Park, the OPFA committee for attracting people to the forestry profession, and the advisory board for the Shaw Woods Education Centre.

Jean Christie, silviculture co-ordinator, West Fraser Timber
Being in charge of a team of 40 is not a responsibility usually given to a young person at a major forestry operation, but that is exactly the situation Jean Christie finds herself in.

As Silviculture Co-ordinator at West Fraser Timber in Quesnel, Jean works with her team of 40 to plant an estimated 1.5 million trees by the end of this year. That involves getting out into the forest with her team, supervising their work while also doing site preparation including the removal of any bushes or grasses that can interfere with tree growth conditions.

Jean is a leader in the next generation of forestry, planting the trees for the next generations of foresters.

Nicholas Gagnon Woods Manager, Tronconnage Gagnon Inc.
Family has always been a cornerstone of the Tronconnage Gagnon logging business, and Nicholas is at the centre of the operation.

As Woods Manager for the company started by his father André in 1984, Nicholas is responsible for keeping the team running efficiently. With 50-70 employees working between the logging, roadbuilding, millyard and transportation ends of the business, making sure that cut volumes are met are integral to the overall operation of the company.

Nicholas also plays an important role in buying new machinery for the company, working with his father to make sure the equipment purchasing and service are always best for the guys in the woods and for the company’s bottom line.

In addition to the work out in the bush, Nicholas is also a well-known big rig drag racer in Quebec, having won the provincial circuit back in 2010.

Helping to make smart decisions in the woods that impact the business’ bottom line helps Tronconnage Gagnon be a respected supplier of quality logs in southwestern Quebec.


We at Canadian Forest Industries congratulate these individuals on their hard work and dedication to this industry. They have provided examples that can help all of us as we work together to promote the benefits of working in Canada’s forest industry to schools and students across Canada.   

October 16, 2013  By Andrew Macklin

Print this page


Stories continue below