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Forest industry and mining/energy industries share common concerns

Canada’s most important logging show officially enters a new era this June: it has expanded to include the missing oil and gas industries. Forest and Resources Expo retains its biennial format and its home base in Prince George, British Columbia. But the addition of the mining and oil and gas industries reflects a more balanced representation of the resources in the region.                 

And the transition is coming along nicely, reports Linda Self, chair of Forest and Resources Expo 2008. “While there have been challenges in developing contacts in these areas, we have what we consider to be a good response to date,” says Self. “We don’t have lofty expectations for the growth in these areas for the 2008 show since this is a new concept for us—and there are many other things to consider before you introduce too much growth in this type of endeavour.” As chair of this year’s Forest and Resources Expo board, Self heads an organization made up primarily of volunteers. These dedicated individuals have been the catalyst for the growth and innovation that has marked Forest Expo’s remarkable 23-year success story.                                   

The mining and oil and gas industries have been woven into the fabric of this year’s show through recognition that the region’s natural resource industries share many common concerns. The show’s popular seminar program serves as an example. “We confirmed participation in our seminars from speakers on topics which cover combinations of these resource sectors and view that as a major stepping stone,” continues Self. The forest industry—and the log harvesting sector especially— will forever be at the show’s roots, as indeed they are for the city. But the regional forest industry is reeling from an unprecedented combination of factors: the collapse of the US housing market; the strength of the Canadian dollar; the 15 per cent lumber export tax; the quality deterioration of beetlekilled wood; higher costs across the board; and skilled labour shortages.                                   

“While I agree that the ‘doom and gloom’ picture for the forest industry is prevalent everywhere, I think we need to keep a positive focus on the good things that are happening where forestry is concerned,” reminds Self. “There are many changes and challenges happening in the industry. The focus may shift from what is considered by many to be ‘conventional’ logging and sawmilling into new areas, such as the processing in our mills of short logs and all the changes that entails for logging contractors, truckers and sawmills.                                   

“There is also much more activity in the area of bioenergy and that will be quite apparent at this year’s show,” adds Self. And in a positive light, some observers believe the US housing market is showing signs of bottoming out. Credit Union Central BC analysis indicates the housing inventory for sale in America is declining.

An enduring community partnership

While Forest and Resources Expo is seeing some change, with the addition of the mining and oil and gas sector, it continues to have a close partnership with the Prince George Hospice Society. Some things evolve and change while other things—such as very positive community relationships—just seem to endure. While Forest and Resources Expo welcomes the mining and oil and gas sectors to this year’s show, an enduring partnership with the Prince George Hospice Society remains intact and as committed as ever.                                   

The hospice society is the principal beneficiary (90 per cent) of the charity auction held in conjunction with the Chairman’s Ball and is the show’s social highlight. Ten per cent of the money raised this year will benefit the education program at the Prince George Railway and Forestry Museum. The program specializes in learning opportunities and tours for school children focusing on how Prince George’s history is intertwined with those of the railway and the forest industry.                                   

It’s a testament to the sustained support of the hospice society’s work in the community that the charity auction has raised a grand total of $622,000 from the last five Forest Expos. Those funds have been directed to and proven critical for the operational needs of the hospice society, says Karen Beeson, the society’s president.                                   

She points out provincial funding through the Northern Health Authority amounts to only about 56 per cent of the society’s needs. The remainder has to be raised from other sources, which is why events like the Forest and Resources charity auction are vital.                                   

This year, the society is undertaking a $2.2 million construction and expansion project to accommodate a growing need for palliative care services in the community and region. The project will double the dedicated palliative care beds from five to 10. The society has always strived to respond to community needs. For example, in 2002, Forest Expo House opened to provide expanded grief and loss programs for adults and children. The hospice society’s guiding principles with all its services are to see that their guests’ last days are lived with dignity and quality, surrounded by loved ones and a caring atmosphere.