MAY 11, 2004, VANCOUVER – Cumberland Wood Industries began shipping value-added laminated wood products to Japan this month thanks to the help of Ecotrust Canada. The Cumberland mill with 18 employees had been shut down for six months due to a shortage of working capital. With the help of a $180,000 loan from Ecotrust Canada's Natural Capital Fund the company was able to reopen and begin shipping orders into Japan's home construction market.
“It's almost impossible to convince banks to invest in rural forestry companies on Vancouver Island. We were consistently turned away because they see value-added forestry as too risky,” says Peter Gregory, general manager of Cumberland Wood Industries. “Ecotrust Canada, however, provided us with sufficient capital to get operations running again and get our employees back to work.”
Ecotrust Canada is a non-profit organization promoting the emergence of a conservation economy in coastal B.C. Its Natural Capital Fund offers non-bank, higher risk loans to entrepreneurs who provide economic opportunities to rural and Aboriginal communities or incorporate socially and environmentally responsible practices in their operations. Ecotrust Canada’s loan was done in partnership with Community Futures of Comox-Strathcona, which supports companies in the region.
“While some forestry companies are exporting raw logs to Japan and even exporting manufacturing jobs to China, Cumberland Wood Industries is providing good jobs and high-quality value-added products on Vancouver Island,” says Ian Gill, President of Ecotrust Canada. “Peter Gregory's commitments to quality and to his community are commendable. We're proud to help this company get back on its feet. It's an example of a visionary forest product company trying to get more value from less volume of wood.”
Gregory is confident that his product will successfully compete on price and quality in the Asian market, while providing Canadian jobs. In contrast, International Forest Products has just announced that it is starting to ship low-grade hemlock to China, where it is being manufactured into laminated products for the Japanese housing market and thereby exporting Canadian jobs.
Cumberland Wood Industries manufactures “glulam” or glue-laminated timber from second-growth hemlock, an underutilized coastal species. The engineered wood product is used as sills, called “dodai,” in Japanese home construction. Cumberland Wood Industries plans to double its production in 2005, adding another nine jobs.
“We are going to maintain our emphasis on the Japanese market,” says Gregory, “and try to take advantage of the growing potential in the United States. Value-added timber products are not subject to softwood lumber duties.”
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Ecotrust Canada is a private, non-profit organization promoting the emergence of a conservation economy in the coastal temperate rain forests of B.C. Since 1999, its Natural Capital Fund has loaned $4.8 million to 34 business supporting about 450 full-time, part-time and seasonal jobs. Ecotrust Canada has offices in Vancouver, Tofino and Courtenay. www.ecotrustcan.org
Cumberland Wood Industries began operations in 1991 milling and kiln drying lumber. In 1995, the company, based in the small town of Cumberland on Vancouver Island, built a laminating plant to manufacture engineered wood products for the Japanese market, which required stronger building materials after the Kobe earthquake. In 1999, the company pioneered its second-growth hemlock product, but recently a shortage of working capital forced it to close for six months. Its mill reopened in May 2004.
For more information contact:
Peter Gregory, general manager of Cumberland Wood Industries, at tel: (250) 336-8168 or cell (250) 792-0167.
Ian Gill, President of Ecotrust Canada, at tel: (604) 682-4141 or cell (604) 220-2175.
Bill Girard, Investment Manager, Ecotrust Canada's Central Island Office in Courtenay at tel: (250) 898-8770 and cell (250) 726-8617.