The future of the forest is on the discussion floor at the annual Council of Forest Industries conference.
The event alternates in and out of Prince George, one of the world's forestry hotspots, and 2013 is an in-year. COFI will host dignitaries from all levels of the forestry spectrum for two business days of intense discussion at the Civic Centre.
The keynote speakers and some panelists have not yet been named, but the general agenda was announced this week. Spokesman Doug Routledge said it was a combination of looking ahead at directions the industry has never contemplated before, like the burgeoning bioenergy aspect of the wood business or the Asian potential for lumber, but also a solid discussion about where the industry still is today.
"The discussion at the conference in 2011 was around recovery. That recovery has arrived. It is in its infancy, it is still fragile, but the trends tell us we are off the bottom," he said. "Looking at the future, we are, as an industry, being pushed in certain directions. We are being pushed by the realities of the global recession, and as a consequence of our timber supply realities. We were going in these directions anyway - looking at market diversification and new products and entering the energy sector and dealing with the pine beetle effects - but these things had significant movement as a result of it all coming together during those hardest years."
Another issue the forest industry has never faced before is now climbing high up the discussion ladder: the depleted workforce. All industries are facing human resources shortages due primarily to the wave of baby-boomer retirements coming at the same time as international demand for our products.
"The skills/training pipeline is fundamentally empty and we have never had this discussion before," Routledge said. "We've never needed to talk about it, but now it is something faced by every profession you can think of. What are we doing about that? What has helped or hurt recently?"
Panel discussions with experts in these fields will be lined up on stage during the packed conference agenda on April 4 and 5. The theme is "Transformation Thru Innovation = Success!" in reference to the industry's need to change, and control that change themselves as much as possible.
Registration is underway now at the earlybird rate of $75 per delegate until Feb. 28. Visit the COFI website for more information.