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Forest Expo Smashes Records

Forest Expo

Forest Expo '98, held in Prince George in May, attracted a record number of exhibitors and attendees, and is now established as a premiere forest industry show in the world.

By Jim Stirling
Copyright 1998. Contact publisher for permission to use.

Forest Expo has passed an acid test. And in doing so it has elevated its status among the world's premier forest industry shows.

Forest Expo '98 established record attendance, exhibitor numbers and boothspace-sold figures during three remarkable days in May at Exhibition Park in Prince George, British Columbia.

The achievement was remarkable because of the unprecedented state of the BC forest industry. High fibre and operating costs, combined with soft and restricted international markets, have caused sawmill closures and layoffs, restricted operations for some companies, and prompted production curtailments for the survivors. Logging contractors have been idled. The cumulative effects of that continue to permeate all sectors of the provincial forest industry, causing a painful but essential restructuring.

Against that daunting backdrop, Forest Expo attracted 22,805 people (up from 21,500 at the last biennial show in 1996), 444 exhibitors (406 in 1996) with 789 booth spaces (675 in 1996).

"When you consider that 349 of the exhibitors came from BC, the figures represent a very good rally by the industry at Forest Expo," says Trudy Swaan, Forest Expo's general manager.

Swaan says feedback from the show - a survey was done of 44 exhibitors and 1,100 attendees - has been predominantly positive. The show continued its function of bringing qualified buyers to the suppliers of forest industry -oods and services. The congenial, informal atmosphere is conducive to doing business, she added. Swaan says the growing number of international exhibitors were "very satisfied" and indicated they will be returning.

She also noted another expanding trend: using Forest Expo to launch new equipment, machinery and services. "The cost of doing business these days is very expensive. At Forest Expo, exhibitors can market their products to a large number of key people in three days," she explains.

There were many examples. Madill chose Forest Expo to showcase its new 60,000-lb. 2200-Series of feller bunchers; Warratah displayed its new series of processors in four sizes up to 34" capacity; CanWest Crane and Equipment introduced the Loglift range of loaders, with applications from stump to mill; Denharco featured its new DHT550 harvester/processor head with a new topping saw, capable of producing high-quality logs even from small timber; Timberjack has developed a new generation of 850 and 950 feller bunchers with improved lift capacity; Quadco Equipment offered the Ultimate 5600 processing head with accumulator arms for multi-stemming; and Cougar Machinery demonstrated its unusually flexible walking excavator.

Public education and real-time information about the forest industry and its activities are an integral and unique component of Forest Expo. This year there was a closer liaison with School District #57 (Prince George) to add children's visits to Forest Expo to their curriculums wise move which also proved entertaining. Older students supervised and explained what the younger ones were seeing.

Other ingredients to Forest Expo '98 included: two morning seminars at the University of Northern British Columbia; high-profile luncheon speakers, including Dave Zirnhelt, BC's Forests Minister; a highly successful charity auction for the Prince George Hospice House; tours of a sawmill, plywood plant and local value-added manufacturing facilities; and loggers' sports, including Canadian championship events and horse logging demonstrations.

Planning has begun for Forest Expo 2000 in Prince George May 11 to 13. Under discussion will be expanding the show outside Exhibition Park to include live in-the-forest demonstrations of harvesting and associated equipment. "I think it's probably the next natural step of Forest Expo's growth," says Swaan.

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