B.C.’s forestry sector turns, again, to the U.S.

Wood trusses | BCBusiness

An uptick in American buyers bolsters industry confidence at BC Wood’s annual Whistler trade show

Buyers, architects and wood-product manufacturers from across Asia and North America are in Whistler from Thursday through Saturday, at a convention hosted by BC Wood, an industry organization for the province’s lumber and finished wood products sector.
“We started to see the market come back last year,” says Brian Hawrysh, CEO of BC Wood, who expects the conference to generate $35 million in wood product sales, which account for an important source of revenue for B.C.’s forestry sector. Lumber accounted for around 41 per cent of the industry and manufactured wood products accounted for 9 per cent, according to a pre-recession study by the Business Council of B.C.
Launched in 2004, the conference draws buyers from China, the U.S. and Japan, providing a much-needed bump to B.C.’s wood products sector, still recovering from the recession. According the Council of Forest Industries, employment in the sector dropped to 24,000 in 2013, down from 34,000 in 2007.
“It’s great to see our friends from the south of the border coming back,” says Hawrysh, who notes a dip in American attendance from 2009 to 2012. A weak Canadian dollar and an increase of U.S. housing starts have made B.C. softwood lumber an increasingly attractive commodity. As of the first quarter of 2014, B.C. wood accounts for 12.1 per cent of U.S. lumber consumption.
This year’s conference is also attracting a strong contingent from Asia, says Hawrysh. China, which imported around 250,000 fbm (a standard unit of measurement in the industry) of lumber in 2007, imported 3.37 million fbm in 2014. Exports to Japan also grew over the course of the recession. Farther afield, new markets like India have a strong interest in B.C. wood, says Hawrysh.
Conference organizers have also used the trade show to showcase new construction techniques developed in B.C., including large wood-frame buildings in the Okanagan and Prince George’s six-storey “plyscraper,” built with funding from the province. “It shows that we can walk the walk, not just talk the talk,” says Hawrysh.