With collaboration, innovation and support, the Adams Lake band is moving ahead with a business venture to sustain forests while providing value-added manufacturing and long-term employment.
“We’re hoping to start it small, keep it simple and then build from there,” said an upbeat Dave Nordquist, the band’s Title and Rights and Natural Resource Director.
Nordquist explained it all began with a small business in Enderby that created door and window shims, which was having trouble finding cedar. Nordquist knew Greg Smith with Gilbert Smith Forest Products (GSFP) who also had a contact at Woodtone Specialties (WSI), which was experiencing a worker shortage in one part of their operations.
This eventually led to a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the Adams Lake band, Gilbert Smith Forest Products, a primary lumber manufacturer and Woodtone Specialties, a secondary re-manufacturer.
“This relationship will promote fibre security, value-added manufacturing, and long-term local employment,” stated a media release on the three-party agreement. “The intent is to create a direct relationship between Indigenous forest tenures, a primary manufacturer, and a major value-added wood products manufacturer that all operate with 200 km of each other.”
More good news came from the provincial government’s Rural Economic Diversification and Infrastructure Program, a new program launched by the Ministry of Jobs, Economic Development and Innovation (JEDI).
The Adams Lake band was successful in its application, receiving the maximum grant of $1 million in the category of projects which support economic diversification. Eligibility was targeted at rural communities with populations of less than 25,000, and Indigenous communities and organizations.
Nordquist explained the funds will be used to set up infrastructure so the band can have a facility to do the work required. That would include necessities such as gravel, power, water and sewer to start the business, as well as buildings and machinery. The facility would be on the Adams Lake reserve in Chase.
As the Adams Lake work will be split between GSFP and Woodtone, employees would sort GSFP’s trim ends, which would go into specific categories such as 2 by 6s and 2 by 8s. The other part would be making something creative out of products that come from Woodtone.
According to its website, GSFP’s Smith family has been in the specialty cedar products business out of Barriere, B.C. since 1955, and is the town’s largest employer.
Woodtone is listed as having locations in Chilliwack, Armstrong and Everett, Wa., with distributors throughout the Pacific Northwest. Its products include a variety of interior and exterior siding, paneling and more.
“Maybe take some of the value-added pieces from Woodtone. We could turn them into products to sell locally, like gazebos,” said Nordquist.
“We’re not competing with Woodtone, we just became part of their supply chain,” he explained. “We made it simple, we’re not putting millions in and trying to displace someone.”
Remarked Hal Hanlon of Woodtone regarding the MOU: “This agreement is extremely exciting for Woodtone from a strategic business perspective and, even more exciting, is the opportunity for our company to become a meaningful partner in the First Nations reconciliation process.”
Nordquist said he could see the new venture employing 20 to 30 people, with the hope to employ some of the people who don’t drive, so they can walk to work. He said because it won’t be a large company with a mill to run, the plan is to be more flexible with shifts, so single parents with no daycare, for instance, could work a shorter 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. shift. Or perhaps a Saturday shift.
“The work is pretty simple too,” he said, “not a lot of high stress.”
He emphasized the project aligns well with the goal of sustaining resources.
“It fits with doing more with the wood, as timber on the land base is not getting more abundant.”
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter and subscribe to our daily newsletter.