Brink donates $1 million to College of New Caledonia

Saying he sees a viable future for the forest industry in northern B.C., Prince George lumber manufacturer John Brink committed $1 million to trades and technology training at the College of New Caledonia on Thursday.

During a ceremony in front of the building on the CNC campus that holds his namesake, Brink presented a giant cheque for the amount to the school's interim president Tara Szerensci.

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The contribution will be spread over 10 years with the first installment coming in February 2020.

"Especially in light of all the things that are happening and all the things that government is trying to do, both provincially and federally, we believe that we have to step up to the plate and try to assist in bringing us forward to a new industry," Brink said.

Szerensci called the donation "phenomenal" and said CNC will be working with Brink over the next while to determine how best to use the money.

"There are lots of areas of need," she said. "We can certainly upgrade shop equipment and training aids, we can even do facility shop and upgrades, student awards. We can even put funding towards developing new curriculum and trying to launch new programs. There are so many options for a gift like this."

The announcement also comes almost 20 years after Brink became CNC's industry partner and donated $500,000 to the school. In 2002, the John A. Brink Trades and Technology Centre in the old Canadian Tire store across the street from the college's main campus.

Despite the current troubles, Brink was upbeat about what lies ahead for the forest sector.

"The current challenges, although there are many of them, are temporary," he said. "The industry is going to get smaller but I see still lots of opportunities."

Indeed, Brink said his company is in the process of expanding its operations in Prince George, Vanderhoof and Houston.

An addition to the Brink Forest Products finger-jointed lumber plant in Prince George will increase its production by 40 per cent and add 75 more employees to the payroll once completed late next year.

Another 20 to 30 people will be employed with an expansion at Vanderhoof Specialty Woods while Pleasant Valley Remanufacturing in Houston will bring on another 10 to 15 once work there is finished.

"What we are doing is saying we understand the challenges that we have today but we believe that the future looks bright going forward," Brink said.

Brink predicted a shift away from a sole reliance on dimensional lumber and towards "new products for new markets.

However, he said there needs to be better access to fibre and an end to higher penalties in the form of tariffs for adding more value to a product that's shipped into the United States.

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