THUNDER BAY, ON - October 30, 20069 - As I travel around the north lately I am becoming encouraged by the very positive potential that is on the verge of being un-leashed in the forestry sector, as well as the increasing mining opportunities.
Things are happening around us and so many of the ventures occurring are increasingly community driven and are developing quietly. You can start to get a sense of us turning the corner through the variety of new ventures that are becoming known throughout the region.
I know that there are a few forestry-based initiatives developing in Thunder Bay that are so very close to becoming reality. I have begun to understand how difficult it is to get some of these ventures off the ground and that is why you have not heard a lot about them as sometimes too much information can work against completion. People are now waiting until everything is completed prior to making any announcements for fear that they might be pre-mature, so it takes time to get to the final announcement.
Elsewhere in the region I have come across a number of other opportunities that are so close to becoming reality. There are at least 3-4 along the North-Shore nearing a start-up position and the Greenstone region is also experiencing some good news I am told. Together with the exciting mineral potential, there is now a true reason for optimism. The news is encouraging and we need some positive news to give us hope.
The common thread surrounding these developments and the drive behind the optimism is that these new ventures are all community –driven. We have not seen such a level of community involvement in the forest industry in recent history. We have grown accustom to large national companies operating paper and associated sawmills, and then these were sold to even larger multi-national firms, moving the decision making even further from our door-steps. The end result of this history has been disappointing as the community that supplied the people and the resources have been left to pick up the pieces, with aging equipment and a less than desirable resource base. There are some exceptions but on average we have been left to figure this our on our own, and you know what, we can and we are.
I am so excited and at the same time proud of the changes that are coming due to the resiliency of our communities. It is our communities that are demanding the necessary changes to wood allocations. It has been loud and clear at every Forest Tenure Review session that our communities want a say in how the wood in their backyards is allocated. The voice is loud and I know the province is listening. There is talk that communities may be close to being granted the opportunity to manage the forests surrounding their communities.
I am also proud to learn how we are becoming true communities by embracing our First Nation neighbours. There are recent models of both communities teaming-up with municipalities to become a new entity that are working together to drive the change that will make a difference for the future of all our residents. Now we have two levels of government approaching our provincial and federal governments with suggestions and made-in-the-north solutions to change the future.
New opportunities have appeared through the Green Energy initiative that will enable power generation from the biomass originating from our forests. This new power generation opportunity will offset a forest product facility’s energy costs and in turn the facility can provide raw material to the power plant from the wood waste created from the product processes. In next few months, we will see new power generating ventures receiving 20-year power purchase agreements to move ahead with their biomass powered projects.
It is such a natural progression for the forest industry and with the community driving the management of the forest and sharing in the revenues created, everyone is a winner. Jobs are sustained locally, the forest is managed with the future of the community in mind, new value-added forest products are becoming a reality, and the profits are retained in the community. This is a powerful change which takes us back to earlier times when the first jobs created in a community were the result of community entrepreneurs. Tying the resources of a community to the community does more than keeping the community alive, it provides a future.
Interestingly enough, there have been un-founded comments from outside our region that maybe we don’t have the knowledge or expertise to manage our forests. We all know that together our northern communities will prove that we can do a much better job, as we have more at stake.