An Edgewater-based sawmill is teaming up with the Akisqnuk First Nation in a plan both parties hope will bring more forestry jobs back to the Columbia Valley.
Members of the Akisqnuknik Development Corporation (ADC) and WoodEx Industries Ltd. met at Radium Resort on November 24 to sign a working protocol agreement. While not a legally binding document, the protocol states the two companies have agreed to work together.
The ADC has a licensed volume of 100,000 cubic metres of timber, which it will bring to the mill.
In exchange, the mill will provide more jobs and training opportunities and collaborate with the band on certain projects, explains development corporation CEO and president Lillian Rose. More specific contracts will be hammered out as needed.
“We have certain needs in our community, WoodEx has needs with our volume, and we’re going to work together to work out the details and how we can join both of our needs and both create wealth,” Rose says, adding the corporation was attracted to WoodEx because of its longtime presence in the valley, and the fact that some band members already have employment ties to it.
“It turned out our goals were similar,” says Rose. “This is very challenging time in the industry, but it presents some really on-the-ground benefits.”
With the agreement signed, Rose says the corporation’s next move will be to lobby the provincial government for more harvest volume.
“We have an on-reserve opportunity, where we have a certain species that is not commercially viable with other mills, but WoodEx has a demand for — Interior Douglas Fir,” she says. “We have a large land base where our main species is Interior Douglas Fir, so we not only have a provincial volume, we also have an on-reserve volume.”
WoodEx sells mainly niche wood products to Asian markets, specifically Japan.
CEO and president Douglas Riddell told guests at the protocol signing his overseas clients are excited by the partnership, which they see as a sign of community investment and sustainable practices.
Both he and Rose also say the partnership will bring more jobs to the mill.
“Together, our contribution into the mill will, with a bit of hard work, result in the starting of an additional shift at WoodEx,” Rose says. “Rather than just having one shift, they’ll go to a second shift. And with that comes additional jobs in harvesting, in trucking as well as supports in the mill for not only our members but the community as a whole.”
The ADC also hopes to work with WoodEx to fill its community housing needs. The company has experience in log cabin building, an option Rose says more aboriginal communities are exploring.
“They are actually going back to more traditional styles of building, the log homes, square timbers,” she explains. “They find the life of a house is a lot longer.”
Traditional homes are also easier to heat and cool, and less susceptible to mold.
Rose says the next year will likely be spent developing specific plans and agreements between the two companies, with a meeting set for this time next year to measure how the agreement has progressed.
Story updated 12-01-11.