British Columbia Sawmill Focuses On High Demand Wood Products
By: Tony Kryzanowski, Wood-Mizer Contributing Author
Travel through any ski resort town in the British Columbia Interior, and what’s evident are the number of homes and businesses featuring a significant amount of wood building products used in both structural and design applications.
Fernie, British Columbia is part of an area that is world renowned as a recreational skiing destination. So there is a considerable amount of post and beam building construction and a demand for a variety of wood products for decks and fences.
Demand for custom sawmilling within this environment is high. That is the opportunity that sawmiller, Nick Morris, recognized when his hometown of Fernie began experiencing significant growth with people building second homes to take advantage of the high-quality skiing destination. Mountain biking and fly fishing have also grown as popular summer attractions, making the community more of a year-round vacation spot.
While his family roots are in the resource sector, Nick says he’s the first family member who has leaned toward forestry. He enjoys being outdoors and manufacturing wood products, although this is not his only interest. In winter, he works as a heli-ski guide, so he only operates his sawmilling business from April to November.
“I sure like this job,” Nick says. “I have some freedom where I am the boss so I can go fishing and hunting whenever I feel like it. The skiing is a nice change. I think it would be difficult to log here in the winter time because we get a lot of snow and its challenging to saw logs that are first wet and then frozen.”
Nick adds that business is good and he is very satisfied with how it balances well with his other interests. “I shoot for quality and not necessarily volume,” he says. “That seems to get people to call back.”
Given Fernie’s location, Nick benefits from an area that offers high quality and large diameter timber resources in close proximity, featuring such valuable species as douglas fir and western red cedar. These work well and are in high demand in timber frame construction. Occasionally, he will also score some rare and highly valued western larch, which tends to grow in pockets in that part of southeastern British Columbia.
Over the years, he has established supply agreements with a number of private landowners and with local area sawmills for oversized logs. His main source for cedar are logs rejected as telephone poles. He prefers long length douglas fir logs, but finds that they are becoming harder to find. Orders range from a few boards and timbers to large, multi-dimensional wood packages, depending on the size and demands of a construction project.
The building that houses Morris Sawmill and Lumber is modern and well designed, with plenty of space for both the bandsaw mill and indoor storage to maintain a well-sorted lumber inventory of some of their most popular products. He manufactured most of the wood for the building and erected it with the help of some friends. It’s obvious that he has learned some valuable lessons over the years about the importance of maintaining an inventory and filling it with the types of products in highest demand. The ability to pull from inventory also allows him more pricing flexibility.
Tony Kryzanowski is a contributing journalist with more than 35 years of experience focusing on writing about alternative energy, biological sciences, business, and government policy.