Another Successful ILA Show in the Works

by | Mar 1, 2023 | 2023, Logging & Sawmilling Journal, March/April

This year marks the 65th anniversary of B.C.’s Interior Logging Association (ILA) and ILA members and those involved in the B.C. forest industry are invited to what will serve as the association’s informal 65th celebration: the upcoming annual ILA AGM and Convention, being held May 4 to 6, in Kamloops, B.C.

“The association may be turning 65, but we’re just getting started,” says Todd Chamberlain, general manager of the ILA. The conference tagline says it all: “Supporting our Members: 65 Years Strong”.

This year’s convention and trade show is expected to be another success, building on the return of the ILA in 2022, after taking a break due to the pandemic.

“We were really happy with how the conference turned out in 2022, and were ecstatic with the number of exhibitors we saw last year—inside and outside, we had close to 90 exhibitors at the PowWow Grounds in Kamloops.

“We had the faithful companies that returned, but we also had quite a few new exhibitors.” The new exhibitors included the Nicola Valley Institute of Technology and First Nations Emergency Services Society of B.C., and others.

“We weren’t able to have the social events last year due to pandemic regulations, but the Inland Group, Brandt Tractor and Ritchie Bros. stepped up, so we had a few functions,” said Chamberlain.

“We’re looking forward to another good show this year, and we’ll be bringing everything back this time around, with the social side of the ILA convention,” he added. That will include a Thursday night meet and greet, breakfast, luncheon, the very popular Friday night dinner and dance (with the Shawn Lightfoot Band), and the entertaining—and competitive—log loader competition.

There is already a lot of excitement about attending the social events, and re-connecting with industry friends and colleagues—and kicking some iron at the trade show.

Chamberlain noted the great support the show is seeing, with more than 30 companies—including Logging and Sawmilling Journal—signing up to help promote the show, and put the show on.

“I think we’re going to see another really good turnout this year.”

The ILA is also pleased to welcome back the Interior Safety Conference put on by the BC Forest Safety Council, as part of its event, which will be held May 4. “We’re working on a few other things that we’re hoping to have at the convention, too—we’re looking to surprise people,” says Chamberlain.

In terms of official business, the Annual General Meeting, for all ILA members, will be held on Friday, May 4th, from 8:30 am to 10:00 am at the Coast Kamloops Hotel.

The success of the ILA conference last year underlines the demand for forest industry shows, said Chamberlain.

It really demonstrated there is good demand out there for forest shows, he added. “We were one of the first forest industry shows out of the gate last year where people could look at logging equipment and talk with suppliers.”

Doing Zoom calls was fine during the pandemic, but you can’t sit in a log loader or skidder on a Zoom call, he noted.

One of the highlights of the conference is the Friday luncheon, which usually features a speech from the current B.C. Minister of Forests, and sometimes the B.C. Premier. Chamberlain said that regardless of who the speaker is, they are likely to address the uncertainty affecting the B.C. forest industry, with the industry recently hit with a number of mill closures, both temporary and permanent. It also represents an opportunity for Chamberlain, ILA board members, and their colleagues from the Truck Loggers Association and the North West Loggers Association to present their concerns to the province, and reinforce how crucial the forest industry is to B.C. communities.

“It’s important to realize the importance of the industry, and how many families are supported in communities like Kamloops, Williams Lake, Cranbrook and others towns and cities.”

Chamberlain noted that there are the loggers and log haulers in these communities, but there is a large group of businesses that loggers support, from the tire shops to the heavy equipment dealers—and all of that translates into jobs in these communities, and support for everything from the local sports teams to fundraising for local hospitals.

The forest industry remains, without question, the backbone of the economy in many small B.C. communities.

Chamberlain added that the association encourages discussion among all the stakeholder groups—industry, First Nations, provincial and municipal governments—about forest industry issues, at the conference.

Even though the industry, and logging contractors, are facing serious challenges right now, Chamberlain notes that the contractor community is incredibly resourceful and resilient. Just as they have to be flexible, and creative, in logging the tough B.C. terrain out in the woods—with every logging site different—they put those same skills to work at running their businesses.

“I have great respect for the logging contractors—they are looking at how to ride the waves that are coming at them now, to get through these times.”

Chamberlain noted that there are some government programs out there that can help, from worker training to Forest Enhancement Society of BC initiatives, and that the ILA can be a helpful source for this information.

On the more social side, the ILA convention represents an opportunity to share a sandwich or beer with colleagues, and chat with the equipment dealers about what’s new in logging equipment. Chamberlain said that logging contractors are continuing to look for innovative iron, such as steep slope logging equipment, and low impact harvesters/forwarders.

“We are moving into working in wildfire interface areas, and are going to need equipment with a smaller footprint,” he said. “And loggers and the licencees are looking at working in steeper ground, so there is an interest in winch-assist systems.”

Overall, the show illustrates the benefits of associations like the ILA, and the value they deliver to their members and the industry.

“The one thing that really makes the ILA special,” says Chamberlain, “is that we have a very active board of directors, of contractors, and they are there front and centre—if there are conversations to be had with government, they are right there in the thick of it, with me. We have contractors speaking for contractors.”

Added to this is the great support in the ILA office, he added, with Nancy Hesketh and Meagan Preston.

And the board, in turn, is thankful to the support it receives, from members and the industry.

“We are so happy that we can once again run this amazing event as we used to with more opportunities to network as in past years,” says board chair Ron Volansky, of R&A Logging, of Nakusp, B.C.

“On behalf of the Interior Logging Association Board of Directors and our Staff, I would like to thank all of the Co-Sponsors and Suppliers’ for their continued participation in our event year after year,” says Volansky. “We are very happy to be back to normal in our event planning and celebrating 65 amazing years! We look forward to seeing everyone in Kamloops.”

Paul MacDonald

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