The president of a log home building company in Enderby called for better support of B.C.’s log and timber sector in front of local politicians and industry representatives on Friday.
Peter Sperlich has operated Canadian Pride Log and Timber for 30 years, and in that time the company has produced roughly 350 projects with over 100 sent to Germany and 170 to Japan. His company has no shortage of demand for Canadian-built log homes. The problem he’s facing is a lack of high-quality logs with which to build them.
“Our production schedule is full for nearly a year in advance at this point, (but) I’m running behind because we are having an issue getting some of our wood,” said Sperlich at his production site in Enderby.
Sperlich said the log and timber sector makes up 1,000 of the 33,000 jobs in the B.C. Interior’s forestry industry while consuming just 0.002 per cent of the logs that are harvested.
“That’s one-five-hundredth of a percent of the wood that was harvested in this province in 2018 in the Interior alone, which puts 1,000 people in our industry to work.”
Given the high employment ratio in the added-value timber sector, Sperlich argued that a steadier supply of high quality logs to small companies like his is warranted, and would be a boon for a forestry industry that has taken its fair share of bumps and bruises in recent years.
“Some of the small communities in our province, largely in rural BC, are really struggling,” said Shuswap MLA Greg Kyllo who was in attendance at Canadian Pride on Friday. Kyllo mentioned Mackenzie and Vavenby as communities that have been particularly affected by industry struggles of late.
“I think we’ve all realized that the logs that are actually utilized in the log home building industry provide a lot more jobs than a log that gets processed and cut down into two-by-fours,” Kyllo said.
“I think it’s important that governments do what they can to try and ensure that value-added businesses like your are getting the products they require in order for you to continue being successful and support small communities,” Kyllo added.
Sam Zirnhelt of Zirnhelt Timber Frames was also present and likewise advocated for a change in how the industry provides logs to smaller businesses.
“What this all comes down to for us – from my perspective and I think from our whole industry – is we need to look at rebalancing the tenure system,” Zirnhelt said, referring to the assortment of laws, regulations and contractual agreements that constrain a person or company’s right to harvest timber in B.C.
Zirnhelt said that changes to the tenure system don’t need to come at the expense of major licensees in the industry.
“They’re actually going to get the same amount of wood, it’s just that there would be enough leverage for wood to be traded to go to the right place.”
Having a more consistent supply of high-quality logs would make businesses like Zirnhelt’s more ready to invest in job-producing projects.
“It just (takes) a bit of confidence, and that starts with knowing where your logs come from, and knowing that they’re going to keep coming.”
Enderby Mayor Greg McCune and Armstrong Mayor Chris Pieper were also in attendance and spoke in support of Sperlich’s concerns. Splatsin Band Chief Wayne Christian was there to bless the congregation and also spoke of the need for collaboration within the industry.
“I think collectively we need to really think about a strategy for B.C. timber sales,” Christian said. If you lose employment it has a real impact in local communities. I do hope that we can come to some meeting of the minds.”