(Photo from atcowoodproducts.com)

Fruitvale mill navigating through market downturn

CEO: Business conditions in forest industry in North America, B.C., very challenging

With the B.C. lumber industry plagued by a market downturn for most of 2019, a Fruitvale company is plugging along each day like they have for the past 60+ years.

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“In one sentence, I can tell you that business conditions in the forest industry in North America and particularly B.C. are very challenging right now,” said Scott Weatherford, chief executive officer for ATCO Wood Products.

In November, Canfor announced its B.C. sawmills will be down from Dec. 23 to Jan. 3, except for the Wynwood specialty mill near Creston, which will close for five days.

Vernon-based Tolko Industries said its B.C. operations will be taking two weeks downtime during the holiday season, from Dec. 21 to Jan. 6. The last day of production will be Dec. 20.

Weatherford said his company is monitoring conditions daily but didn’t offer any speculation on Christmas production schedules.

“ATCO and our dedicated team are focused on making the right decisions on a daily basis, to keep our operations going, focused on being nimble and adjusting to changing business conditions, and finding ways to take advantage of opportunities when they arise,” he told the Trail Times.

As a producer of softwood veneer for the plywood industry, ATCO supplies a small, niche product to a market that has experienced a downswing this year.

Much of the company’s timber comes from Crown land harvesting operations. So the increased log cost cited by other B.C. mills as a reason for their cutbacks this year, has affected ATCO’s bottom line as well.

Aside from poor market conditions, wildfires and ongoing insect infestations have wholly impacted the industry for several years. But the Beaver Valley business has prepared itself to face these challenges through progressive planning.

“ATCO is operating as planned, and we evaluate market conditions regularly to adjust our operating and strategic plan quickly as necessary,” noted Weatherford.

“This is how we normally operate our business which has helped us navigate the dynamic cycles this industry is used to experiencing over the last hundred years,” he said.

“We have a talented, dedicated, and nimble team, we focus on doing the best job possible in the forests and in our mill, and work together to make good, sound decisions that are in alignment with our vision, mission, and values.”

As a producer of softwood veneers and fibre byproducts, ATCO is recognized as a leader in stewardship, sustainability practices and in 2017, was named the top B.C. exporter in natural resources.

Then in 2018, ATCO’s national recognition as Family Enterprise of the Year was especially meaningful because it got to the heart of the business, which has always been family-owned and operated.

“Being named the 2018 Canadian Family Business of the Year is incredibly and particularly meaningful, as a majority of family businesses that start, fail to negotiate changing business conditions and transitioning generations over multiple decades,” Weatherford said last fall.

“We’ve successfully transitioned through various generations of family, and many different management teams over that period.”



newsroom@trailtimes.ca

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