Don't even think about counting the coast forest industry out, warns Jim Girvan, executive director of the Truck Loggers Association.
As the venerable voice of the independent coastal logger heads into its 64th annual convention in Vancouver this week, Girvan says he is confident the hard-pressed industry will not only survive, but continue to be the backbone of the B.C. economy.
"Logging is not a sunset industry. It is sustainable and offers a good future," he said in an interview yesterday. "Like every other resource industry we face challenges, but I believe we can overcome them and I am very confident about the future."
The leading challenge is to stay globally competitive and attract young skilled workers. He said global competition will be a central theme of the conference.
"To this end, we are bringing in speakers from as far away as New Zealand to listen to them and see what they want," Girvan said.
"We have been working for some time on restructuring the industry to make it more globally competitive again and we are looking critically at everything to make that happen."
"At the end of the day, customers want a decent product at a decent price and we have to make that happen. This conference is all about making that happen," he said.
But in lockstep with other resource industries, the association is looking down the gun barrel of attracting well-trained workers.
Girvan said "one of the reasons we come to town is to show off our industry and demonstrate to younger people there is a good future and good-paying jobs in the forests."
He readily admits that young people "don't look to natural resources for job opportunities. We have to make young people aware these jobs are here and the long-term opportunities that they offer."
The association has started an education program to show what it is like to be a logger.
"We have to make young people aware that there are not only jobs in this industry, but there are long-term jobs that are reasonably well compensated. Kids are not going to go into an industry if they don't think it is going to be a long-term industry," he said.
The expected 2,000 delegates will also be listening carefully when Premier Gordon Campbell speaks to the conference Friday. Provincial premiers have traditionally used the convention to indicate government thinking on the industry and where it wants to take it.
The TLA has about 525 members.