Our leadership team has deep expertise and a bold vision. Find out about our take on evolving trends and patterns in the industry, and how we are carving out a solid, strategic future for our company.
Interfor's TrendWatch - See what we're seeing
Carl Dobler, General Manager, Export Sales & Marketing
September 12, 2017
Interfor has explored international markets for more than half a century. We opened our first overseas office in Japan in the early 1960s. While we always saw great potential in China, that market remained small until a decade ago, when three distinct events occurred, laying the foundation for the development of our growth opportunity with China.
The first was the US housing crash of 2008. The second was a flare-up of the Softwood Lumber dispute between Canada and the United States that resulted in heavy tariffs for Canadian lumber companies. And the third was rapid growth in China, characterized by mass re-urbanization and residential construction.
So whereas both the demand for our lumber - and sales returns for producers - had taken a hit, China presented a new opportunity for Interfor.
The challenge was that the Chinese construction industry works almost exclusively with concrete - they only wanted Canadian wood to make concrete foundation forms and furring strips to hang wall and ceiling panels. Still, that business was profitable for lumber producers, and a welcome recourse from some of the market challenges they were facing at the time. At its peak, Canadian exports to China rose 300 per cent, to $1.5 billion (CDN) from $362 million (CDN), over a five-year period.
Demand for lumber in China continues to grow, along with a new appreciation for the range of applications for wood construction. Current market trends back this up: rapid, sustainable urbanization; green development; construction industrialization and prefabrication; and a rising middle class with an eye for quality and variety.
As China’s housing and infrastructure needs evolve, so do Interfor’s opportunities in the market. With four strategic regions, we are able to offer customers a broad range of options. Today, we are leveraging our established contacts in China to move increasing amounts of Southern Yellow Pine to that market and other markets in the Asia-Pacific region, which is a huge benefit to our mills across the US South.
Commodity lumber will always be our core business in China, but with a solid, loyal customer base, we are now offering higher value products to that market as well. These products include stock for furniture, decking, and a new innovation - prefabricated, non-load bearing, energy-efficient wood wall (PEEWW) technology, or “in-fill” walls. These structures replace concrete blocks used in wall and window openings.
With the world’s largest construction market, a growing fiber deficit, and a robust housing and infrastructure development plan, China’s demand for imported lumber will continue to present exciting opportunities for Interfor well into the future.
Bob Craven, Manager, Economic Partnerships, Coastal Woodlands
August 10, 2017
Interfor was proud to sponsor the 25th Tribal Journeys in Campbell River, BC August 5. Tribal Journeys is an annual cultural event that brings First Nations families together by canoe to share, learn and preserve their traditions.
Host nations, Wei Wai Kum and We Wai Kai – of Campbell River and Quadra Island – respectively, welcomed 2500 First Nations pullers in 125 canoes from territories along the Pacific Coast, and the world.
The theme of this year’s Tribal Journeys – Standing Together – has special significance for Interfor. We have been operating on BC’s coast for more than 50 years, and our success has been grounded in our partnerships with First Nations.
It was an honour to support and participate in Tribal Journeys. Interfor employees and their families helped prepare 5000 brown-bag lunches for the canoe pullers and hauled the canoes off of the beach at day’s end.
We were also proud to work with Coast Salish artist Shain Jackson of Spirit Works who designed the podium.
Mark Stock, Senior Vice President, Human Resources
May 24, 2017
Twenty-seven employees are on their way towards becoming certified Interfor Journey Millwrights.
Interfor’s Millwright Apprenticeship Program is a three-year program to support career development at our mills in the US South. The program addresses a critical shortage of skilled maintenance technicians in the region.
The program is an investment in our people and our infrastructure that aligns with our business strategy to build value by delivering operational excellence. Apprentices will earn while they learn, without having to leave their homes and families for extended periods of time.
Training officially starts June 5 and has three major components: online training, classroom instruction and mentored, on-the-job work experience. Interfor will deliver the program with the support of The Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT), Charles Black & Associates and the Central Georgia Technical College.
Best of luck to the class of 2020!
Bart Bender, Senior Vice President, Sales & Marketing
May 1, 2017
Today Interfor completes an internal consolidation of two western sales offices that streamlines sales and logistics processes, improves customer service and enhances our platform for future growth.
Our Bellingham, WA and Metrotown (Burnaby, BC) offices are now aligned under one roof – at Metrotown. The new active trading floor is home to Interfor’s Cedar, Export and Western Commodity, Specialty Sales, and Logistics teams.
Our vision was to create a cohesive team that could benefit from the easy flow and sharing of market information on one floor. Having support services such as IT, Human Resources and Finance all based at the same location further supports the team’s success.
Interfor customers also reap the benefits. With export activities consolidated, the collective team has a perspective on overseas markets, meaning we are better positioned to offer global expertise to our customers.
Bart Bender, Senior Vice President, Sales & Marketing
April 27, 2017
Interfor is once again proud to donate quality Douglas-Fir lumber from our Adams Lake mill in British Columbia for an outdoor pavilion at TED2017 in Vancouver. It’s a great way to reflect the TED2017 theme – The Future You.
Wood has an important role to play in our shared future, and the temporary pavilion, known as PAUSE, offers a place of reflection and interaction for the world’s 1,000 top thinkers and doers who are attending the sold-out conference from April 24 to 28.
PAUSE overlooks Vancouver’s magnificent harbor and mountains. It was designed by Alsu Sadrieva who won an international wood design competition led by DBR │Design Build Research, a non-profit institute that teaches the design and construction of socially, culturally and environmentally relevant student-led installations. DBR was co-founded by award-winning Vancouver architect Michael Green who has long been a bold advocate for wood. In 2013, he gave a TED talk on Why we should build wooden skyscrapers.
Wood -- the ultimate natural, renewable and strong building material -- fits perfectly with the TED2017 theme. Thanks to advances in wood products and technologies, it represents the future for sustainable construction. When Brock Commons, a student residence at the University of British Columbia, opens later this year it will be the world’s tallest timber structure – and Interfor provided a third of the lumber.
It’s always an honor to be part of TED, which has shared cutting-edge ideas since 1984. Speakers this year include Tesla’s Elon Musk, tennis star Serena Williams, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Microsoft’s Paul Allen and Google’s Larry Page. In 2014, Interfor provided Hem-Fir and Western Red Cedar for TED’s community stage, and we partnered with DBR to build the Lions Marquee in 2015 with Douglas-Fir lumber. This year, PAUSE is expected to become a legacy project, which means it will continue to be enjoyed by the people of Vancouver for years to come.