Premier Gordon Campbell made two of his four major announcements Thursday during a speech at the Council of Forest Industries conference.
Campbell repeated his belief that the markets in China and India offer great opportunity for B.C. wood and the province’s forestry sector.
“We have to have a willingness to look through other eyes, and take on challenges,” he said, urging forestry sector representatives to help sell the advantages of B.C. wood to international markets.
One announcement was a $50-million injection into the Northern Development Initiative Trust, bringing the total to $185 million to help communities respond to the mountain pine beetle epidemic.
“We’re saying to the (NDI trust) board, think beyond the borders (of your individual communities), because the pine beetle certainly does,” Campbell said in his speech during the first day of the conference. “I know you will invest these dollars wisely.”
The $50-million addition to the trust includes $30 million for cross-regional pine beetle recovery projects, and $5 million for other development projects in each of the four regions (Peace, Prince George, Northwest, and Cariboo-Chilcotin/Lillooet) in the trust.
“The mountain pine beetle presents a major long-term challenge for communities, and we want to help them prepare for that and ensure a long-term and sustainable future for the forest sector and forest workers,” Campbell said.
The money – from the 2005/2006 ministry of Small Business and Economic Development budget – is in addition to over $100 million committed in the current budget to respond to the pine beetle’s impact.
The other announcement – both received standing ovations from hundreds of forestry sector representatives at the conference – was for $8.4 million to expand international markets for the province’s forest products.
“We need to protect our traditional markets and build our presence in emerging markets so we can continue to provide those job opportunities for the next generation,” Campbell said.
The funds, through Forestry Innovation Investment Ltd., will provide $5.2 million for 26 international marketing projects and $3.2 million for 16 product-development activities.
Projects are cost-shared with the federal government and forestry associations representing individual firms, which the province says will leverage its contribution to over $20 million.
“These investments allow us to further develop our marketing capabilities and impact in the markets that are key to the industry’s future strength and stability,” said COFI president and CEO John Allan.
The Forestry Innovation Investment uses a competitive request-for-proposal process to evaluate submissions and award funding. An evaluation panel with federal government representatives and the forest industry awarded funding for this year, including:
* $862,459 for COFI for intensive training for Chinese workers on correct building techniques; increase opportunities for wood-frame construction in China; and the identification of opportunities for more wood consumption of B.C. wood in Korea.
* $389,262 to the Canadian Wood Council to promote the use of wood in domestic, non-residential, commercial, industrial, and institutional construction markets.
* $1 million to the BC Wood Specialties group to increase awareness of B.C. wood products and species through trade events in the United States, Europe, China, and Japan; and organize a global buyers mission in September 20005 to bring together 85 manufacturers, 100 international buyers and representatives together in B.C.