More Than Just Fingerjoints: Vanderhoof Specialty Wood Products Is Expanding Into New Markets

Northwest Wood Preservers

Vanderhoof Specialty Wood Products has been a key employer for more than two decades in Vanderhoof, a community of 4,500 residents with a proud history of logging and sawmilling dating back to the 1920s. Many of the families in Vanderhoof and throughout the Nechako Valley continue to rely on the forest industry for their livelihood, and Vanderhoof Specialty Wood Products’ expansion in 2009 brought a strong sense of optimism and economic revitalization to the community.

The company operates a value-added lumber remanufacturing facility that specializes in solid lumber products for North American and Asian markets. In 1996, the company expanded to include engineered wood products with the addition of the block processing and finger joint production lines. The plant is certified to produce finger jointed lumber for stud application under current industry standards.

Continuously striving to be at the top of its industry, the company’s owners and employees pride themselves in delivering consistent high-quality products, on-time shipping, and competitive pricing. Unfortunately, due to temporary financial hardship caused by the collapse of the softwood lumber market in 2008, Vanderhoof Specialty Wood Products was on the brink of permanently closing operations. In 2009, the BID Group bought Vanderhoof Specialty Wood Products through its Northwest Wood Preservers company in order to retain and expand the company’s operations in Vanderhoof. A locally owned and operated Vanderhoof company, the BID Group utilized economic stimulus financing from the Community Adjustment Fund, provided by Northern Development on behalf of the Government of Canada, to expand this major manufacturing employer.

Under this project, Northwest Wood Preservers invested in the construction of a new wood pellet manufacturing facility adjacent to Vanderhoof Specialty Wood Products existing facilities. Through this major capital investment, the company has diversified both its product lines and the international markets its serves, greatly improving the company’s ability to weather future fluctuations in the traditional softwood lumber market. As Vanderhoof Specialty Wood Products is a major employer in Vanderhoof and provides numerous well-paying family supporting jobs as well as spin-off work for dozens of local suppliers, the company’s expansion into new markets and its improved economic resiliency are great news for the community.

"Northern Development has delivered exactly what it promised our business – non-bureaucratic, responsive and business-friendly programs and investment decisions that have greatly helped our manufacturing businesses diversify and expand"

Keith Spencer, General Manager, Vanderhoof Specialty Wood Products

"Northern Development’s loan funding is enabling Vanderhoof Specialty Wood Products to construct a $5.5 million pellet plant that will utilize 100% residual waste from beetle killed forests. The project is maintaining sixty permanent finger-joint manufacturing jobs, and creating twelve new permanent jobs at the pellet plant and twelve jobs during the capital construction phase."

David Fehr, Owner, Northwest Wood Preservers

Positive Economic Impacts in Vanderhoof

With the investment in a new wood pellet manufacturing facility at Vanderhoof Specialty Wood Products, the company is now able to directly utilize the wood waste it produces from fingerjoint production as an input for its new facility. The type of wood waste that is produced from fingerjointing is referred to as ‘white wood waste’. This kiln dried wood makes excellent, light-weight and clean burning pellets, enabling the company to brand its new product lines as Platinum Pellets. With the startup of the Platinum Pellet product line, Vanderhoof Specialty Wood Products is now able to pre-sell a significant volume of its wood pellet production months in advance, creating a predictable and sustainable revenue stream that directly sustains overall company operations.

The construction of the pellet facility also builds on synergies within Vanderhoof’s local lumber industry. Vanderhoof Specialty Wood Products has been in a mutually beneficial corporate relationship with Canadian Forest Products Ltd. for more than twenty years, purchasing planer trimblocks from Canadian Forest Products and utlizing the trimblocks for the production of fingerjointed lumber. As wood waste from the production of fingerjoint lumber is now turned into wood pellets, the overall efficiency of the local industry has been greatly enhanced.

Northwest Wood Preservers and the BID Group saved one of the largest employers in Vanderhoof by purchasing Vanderhoof Specialty Wood Products at a difficult time in the company’s history. Sixty employees retained their employment at the fingerjoint manufacturing facility and twelve new manufacturing jobs were created in the new Platinum Pellet business. The fingerjoint plant also employs a twelve person trucking company to transport pellets to customers, and the construction of the plant employed another twelve local residents for almost a year.

Vanderhoof Specialty Wood Products spent more than $6,000,000 on wages in 2010. These wage-earners are people who live and spend their wages in the Vanderhoof area. As such, the benefits of this manufacturing facility extend far beyond the eighty-four people employed directly by Vanderhoof Specialty Wood Products. The income earned by the employees is spent in the community – local retailers and service providers throughout Vanderhoof continue to see direct economic benefits through Vanderhoof retaining one of its major employers.

The company’s operators firmly believe in equitable employment, demonstrated through their hiring practices. Currently, Vanderhoof Specialty Wood Products is associated with the Burns Lake Keyoh Dechun Ilah First Nation Group. More than half of the employees at the facility are female, and there are currently five employees hired through the Handicap Employment Initiative.