Jobs and Labour Minister Pat Bell (left) was at T-Mar Industries on Wednesday to highlight regional economic growth. Standing with him under a newly refurbished 400 series excavator are T-Mar’s Tyson Lambert (centre) and Chris Leikermoser.

Campbell River firm’s innovation highlights forestry comeback

T-Mar is rebuilding the big 400 series excavators to meet the niche of pulling out large logs

Coming out of a lengthy economic recession, it was good to see a full boardroom at T-Mar Industries.

That’s what Tyson Lambert thought as he snapped a picture of staff, politicians, government public relations, and media who crammed into the room Wednesday morning.

“My dad George is in the hospital right now. This is for him,” said Lambert, whose father owns the industrial engineering and manufacturing firm located on Duncan Bay Road.

When forestry was good, T-Mar boomed – fixing, customizing and innovating large equipment for the coastal forest industry. In recent years though, with the downturn in forestry, the company relied on the few repairs that came its way.

But no longer, the price of lumber is on the rise, pointed out Jobs and Labour Minister Pat Bell, and forestry operations are ramping up as the demand grows.

“We see it as the perfect storm,” said Lambert. “There’s a shortage of wood, the supply’s been going down the last four to five years, there’s no new equipment being manufactured, and it’s all causing a supply problem. And now demand is picking up.”

To meet that demand T-Mar is rebuilding the big 400 series excavators to meet the niche of pulling out large logs, including old growth timber, from the forests.

The company is also designing and building Log-Champ swing yarders, more powerful and lighter than older models, and specifically designed for improved performance in steep areas. The later point is key in the new biomass inventory for the region. The recently released report identifies several steep slope areas where the swing yarder would be ideal for cost-effective logging.

“With the price of fuel, you can imagine where heli-logging is at,” noted Lambert.

Bell and his staff selected T-Mar to highlight the economic recovery for the forest industry as well as the new biomass inventory report and the airborne magnetic survey. The inventory report identifies the leftovers of logging; trees that were not taken due to the high cost of harvesting as well as the stumps and branches – typically burned on site – are valuable when converted into wood pellets.

According to a government news release, “This new biomass inventory reported…offers detailed technical information about biomass sources and volume for 23 supply areas near Campbell River.”

The magnetic survey was conducted last summer by helicopters flying grid patterns over large tracts of the Upper Island. The high-resolution maps, available to the public, helps geoscientists identify  potential minerals and metals for mining. Minister Bell believes this will lead to a lot more mining exploration in the region that equates to hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars.

“A study from Smithers suggests more than $100 million has been spent on exploration and staking, and has created 900 FTEs (full-time equivalent jobs) in a community of about 4,000 people,” he said. “In an under-explored area, miners want to take a look.”

The report and the survey were conducted as part of B.C.’s Regional Economic Investment Initiative. Campbell River was selected as one of three communities in the province for the initiative.