By: The Working Forest Staff
Vancouver, B.C. – A recently released study conducted by iTotem Technologies Ltd. for the BC Council of Forest Industries (COFI) found that in 2019, COFI member companies purchased $7 billion worth of goods and services from nearly 9,900 B.C.–based companies and Indigenous suppliers located in every region of the province.
“Many people tend to associate the forest industry with rural areas and smaller communities, but this study shows that people working in businesses in urban centres like Vancouver, Surrey, Burnaby, Nanaimo and Kamloops also depend on a strong and vibrant forest industry supply chain,” says Susan Yurkovich, President, and CEO, COFI. “This study clearly demonstrates how our forest industry’s deep roots are supporting workers and families right across our province.”
Commissioned in early 2020, the 2019 Regional Supply Chain Study assesses the supply chain spend and reach of 19 COFI member companies. The study found that more than 340 communities and 120 Indigenous Nations and organizations of all sizes benefited economically from the forest industry supply chain, including many Lower Mainland communities. COFI members purchased $2 billion worth of goods and services from 2,100 businesses located across 19 municipalities in Metro Vancouver. Vancouver-based companies were the top recipients of forest industry supply chain spend, with local purchases totaling $978 million.
On Vancouver Island, $1.2 billion worth of goods and services were purchased from 1,600 suppliers, with more than a quarter of them located in Nanaimo. In the North, Prince George was home to 970 forestry suppliers that provided $718 million in goods and services. And more than 550 businesses from Kelowna and Kamloops in the Interior provided a combined $220 million of the forestry supply chain spend.
“In Port McNeill, 80 percent of our population of 2,200 earns a living in some way from the forest industry,” says Gaby Wickstrom, Mayor of Port McNeil, which had 40 companies provide $39 million in goods and services to the industry last year. “Many of those small businesses are key partners to the industry. We are all interconnected in some way and to learn of the dollar figure contributed from forestry to our local economy is astounding.”
Importantly, the study confirmed that forestry is also a primary industry in many Indigenous communities. Business agreements and stewardship partnerships between the forest industry and Indigenous Nations provided about $250 million in economic benefits to Indigenous communities, with close to 120 Indigenous Nations or affiliated businesses participating in the industry in 2019.
“Through our long-term relationship agreement with forest company Interfor, we are creating more jobs and opportunities for people in our community,” says Kelsie Robinson, a Homalco First Nation Councilor. “We’re also working together to access lumber from Interfor’s mills to support local infrastructure development, including new housing for community members.”
Suppliers range from manufacturers designing, producing, and servicing parts for the equipment used in forestry operations to urban-based tech companies developing digital solutions to improve harvesting, tree planting, and regeneration processes, to administration, janitorial, and catering services.
“Our forest industry partners rely on our technology to provide accurate information to make forest and mill operations more efficient and sustainable,” says Michael Wilcox, co-founder of FYBR, a Vancouver-based company that is pioneering the integration of drone aerial intelligence to produce on-demand assessments of wood fibre inventory and sustainable forest management throughout the harvest cycle. “Our solutions are being used by foresters and mill operators across North America as a direct result of the success here in B.C.”
“Whether they are making equipment for our mills, providing cultural awareness training, or developing cutting-edge technology, these suppliers are helping the industry continue to do things better, safer, and more sustainably,” says Yurkovich. “If every one of these companies employs 5, 10 or 100 people, that’s a lot of British Columbians who also count on the forest industry each day to support their families, pay their bills and enjoy a great quality of life.”
B.C.’s forest industry remains a cornerstone of the B.C. economy, representing over 100,000 direct and indirect jobs, contributing nearly $13 billion to the provincial GDP and generating close to $4 billion in annual revenues to municipal, provincial and federal governments in recent years to help fund important public services like health care and education.
“This study is a reminder of the importance of our industry to the fabric of our province,” says Yurkovich. “As we look to recover from the devastating impact of this global pandemic, our sector can help lift more British Columbians up by keeping our operations running and continuing to buy goods and services from local businesses. To do this, we need to work together to address the challenges we face and seize new opportunities, ensuring our deep roots continue to be the foundation for strong communities, sustainable growth and shared prosperity long into the future.”
COFI represents the majority of lumber, pulp and paper, and manufactured wood producers from across the province.
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