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Good Years Ahead
Olympic Logging Conference Review
The 69th annual Olympic Logging Conference was held in Victoria, B.C., in May. The biggest difference from recent years was the positive news about the industry.
Many speakers forecasted a growing demand over the next five years. They based the forecast increase on housing starts (which have been slow but will continue to rise) and the growing demand for lumber and logs in other countries.
Meeting Market Demand Challenges Ahead
With the upbeat forecasts also came some serious warnings, like those from Michael Phillips, president and COO of the Hampton Lumber Sales Company. He said in 2013, mills were operating at 82 percent capacity and “the flexibility is not there.” Today the cost of a new mill is around $100 million, and it’s hard to invest that kind of money without long-term certainty in the market.
It is not just mills that could lack the flexibility. Other speakers reminded members that many loggers stepped down during the recession, and it’s extremely hard for a company to start up. With the initial cost of equipment, plus expenses like L&I, loggers (like mills) can’t jump into the business without some security.
Speaker Don Taylor, head of Sustainable Resource Systems and formerly the corporate vice president of Champion International, said he could foresee a business model down the road where mills assumed some of the risk for new contractors.
Whatever the model will be, all agreed it will look different than it did ten years ago.
One of the themes this year was safety. Jerry Bonagofsky talked about the Logger Safety Initiative, which many members of the OLC have either been involved in developing or have become involved with the program. Through the program, companies work with the government to reduce workers’ compensation costs.
A few of the companies that have signed up for the program (there have been 80 to date) talked about their experiences. Overall most of them initially signed up to take advantage of the cost savings, but after going through the process, they said it opened their eyes to safety issues in their company — even those companies that thought they had a safe operation to begin with.
More than one person said, “We did it at first because of the money, but now we do it to be safe.”
Anyone looking for information on the program can log on to www.lni.wa.gov/Main/LoggerSafety.
As always, there was entertainment for everyone — from golfing and zip lines to a tour and tasting of Vancouver Island where folks sampled hard ciders and handmade pizzas at Merridale Cider & Bistro. The conference concluded with a reception, followed by a dinner and successful silent auction.
Next year, don’t miss the OLC’s 70th annual conference. You can keep informed by visiting www.olympicloggingconference.com.
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