STAYING On Top
The Northern Alberta Forestry Show in May will be an opportunity to stay on top of the latest industry and equipment trends.
By Tony Kryzanowski
With the many transitions occurring among forestry equipment suppliers, attendance at the Northern Alberta Forestry Show (NAFS), to be held May 10 to 12 in Grande Prairie, is all that much more important. Held every second year, this year's event is expected to be the largest show yet, with around 400 booths hosting a highly diverse group of exhibitors. John Deere's purchase of Timberjack, Caterpillar's new line of harvesters and forwarders, and Strongco's acquisition of the Tigercat distributorship are just a few examples of the major changes taking place within the industry. Those changes alone should have logging contractors looking for information concerning equipment service support, product improvement, and what lies ahead in terms of new products to the market.
As territory manager for the construction dealership of Brandt Tractor in Grande Prairie, NAFS president Lyle Dalgleish is well acquainted with the changing face of equipment service and supply, particularly in Western Canada. "As far as technical and model changes, there will be a lot of new attractions at the show," he says. "We saw this at the Kelowna Demo 2000 Show, and there will be a few more by this May." With a couple of new forestry businesses beginning operations recently in the Grande Prairie region, as well as a few more coming on stream in the next year or two, the show-which has free admission-also represents an excellent opportunity to network. Participants can begin that process by attending the Thursday luncheon.
They will have an opportunity to hear the latest news from local forestry leaders who have been invited to speak on the trends in the area's forestry community, and the industry's impact on the region. "I think this year, with some of the new mills coming into the Alberta area, such as Footner Forest Products, and expansions by Ainsworth, Weyerhaeuser and Canfor, there are opportunities in here for contractors offering innovative techniques to get the job done," says Dalgleish. Given the competitive pressures that area mills are currently experiencing - with lumber prices at historic lows and energy costs going through the roof - a contractor with a cost competitive equipment set up or an innovative approach becomes that much more valuable.
"Our local mills still struggle with markets in terms of being very competitive and looking for ways of cutting costs," says Dalgleish. "So new product innovation and technology can help loggers manage the cost of machinery, fuel and repairs in relation to their remuneration. A new piece of equipment is a substantial investment. There is a lot of thought that goes into it ." The Northern Alberta Forestry Show is also a terrific opportunity to watch portable sawmills in action.
During the last show, there were 15 portable sawmill demonstrations, and 10 are already slated for this year's show. The three-day event takes place at Evergreen Park, which Dalgleish describes as extremely well suited for a show that promotes forestry. "It is a spacious forest like atmosphere," he says. "It's probably the most aesthetic show as far as a forestry show goes because of the location and the area that we have, with the pine trees in the background." There will be six display areas, including ones for trucks, equipment, suppliers and sawmills, as well as two major indoor display areas in both the Drysdale and Lewis Hawkes buildings. Exhibitors are coming from all over the world.
Many of the equipment suppliers will have technical support people on hand from as far away as New Zealand, Finland, Sweden, the United States and from across Canada. This is an excellent opportunity to have questions answered concerning a particular line of equipment and its performance. In terms of places to stay, there is plenty of new accommodation available right in Grande Prairie. Dalgleish comments that many new hotels and upgrades have been built since the last forestry show in 1999. Grande Prairie and area is currently experiencing strong business growth. Even though more accommodation is available, he suggests that visitors and exhibitors book early.
RV parking is also available at Evergreen Park, as well as at a number of camping locations in and around the city. A major RV park expansion and improvement project at Evergreen Park has just been completed, which includes full power hook ups and a convenience store right on site. Parking is available at the exhibition grounds. For those wanting to avoid parking hassles, GP Transit will be offering regular bus transportation to the grounds from key city locations, including stops at major hotels. Transportation is also available from the parking lot to the show site itself. While the show leans heavily on the side of the business of forestry, it is intended to offer a learning experience for everyone. Its theme, Our Forest - Our Future, was chosen by a student from Sexsmith Elementary School.
Part of the proceeds from show sponsorships and a silent auction, that occurs during the Friday night dinner and social, pays for transportation so that upwards of 700 area school children can participate in the Walk Through The Forest Program hosted by area mills. This program takes place during the three days prior to the show. "It is a hands-on forest experience put on by the mills," explains Dalgleish. "They teach the students about silviculture methods and tree species identification. It is a very informative three days."
One reason why the show still offers free admission is because volunteer organizers want attendance from a diverse audience. "It was put together to raise public awareness of what is happening in the forest industry," says Dalgleish. Show funds are also distributed as bursaries to students participating in the Applied Forest Resource Management Degree program at Grande Prairie Regional College. Show organizers encourage both spouses to attend and have prepared events catering to husbands and wives. In addition to the Friday night social, there is also a special event for the ladies. They are invited to attend the luncheon and fashion show on Thursday, May 10th, which will also feature a number of door prizes.
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