FPAC at 100
March 26, 2013
By David Lindsay
One hundred years ago in March 1913, a meeting was held in the King Edward Hotel in Toronto to establish an organization
One hundred years ago in March 1913, a meeting was held in the King Edward Hotel in Toronto to establish an organization aimed at “the consideration of matters of general interest to the pulp and paper industry, the promotion of its welfare and the social intercourse among the members of the Association.”
And so, the Canadian Pulp and Paper Association was born, an organization that lives on under its new name, the Forest Products Association of Canada (FPAC). Back then membership for companies was just $25 a year and the salaries for the three staff added up to a grand total of $440. The nascent CPPA actually had a challenging first year. But soon the association found its footing and grew into one of the most respected industry associations in Canada, as it remains so today.
All this year, FPAC will be celebrating its 100th anniversary by reflecting back on the proud past of an industry that helped shape the Canada we know today. Of course, the origins of the sector in Canada predate the association. The Canadian forest industry first flourished after Napoleon Bonaparte brought in the Continental Blockade in 1806 aimed at cutting off its archenemy Great Britain from its traditional suppliers― forcing Britain to turn to its colonies for timber.
The evolution of the forest products industry can be seen as a veritable hewer of Canadian history. First the timber trade and then the pulp and paper industry brought investment and immigration to Canada; these industries fostered economic development and transformed the landscape by encouraging the building of town and villages and the opening of roads and railways; they had a broader reach into every region of Canada than any other industry, past or present. The pulp and paper industry was for about 75 years of the 20th century the largest employer, the largest exporter and overall the largest contributor to the Canadian economy.
But as we celebrate the proud past of the industry, it is also a time to reinforce our belief in the positive future of the Canadian forest sector, something that will be rooted in the new bioeconomy. That’s why FPAC believes in Vision2020, a program that sets ambitious goals for the industry in the area of people, performance and products. We aim to replenish the workforce with at least 60,000 new recruits and have recently launched a new recruitment tool, thegreenestworkforce.ca; we want to further burnish our green credentials with another 35% reduction in our environmental footprint; and finally, the industry is aiming to produce another $20 billion in economic activity from new products and markets.
To reach our product goal, mills in Canada are diversifying, transforming and moving beyond their traditional production of lumber, pulp and paper to a new suite of value-added products. For example, FPAC has just released a Construction Value Pathway study that shows the Canadian forest products industry is well positioned to capitalize on key opportunities in a global construction industry now worth about $8 trillion dollars and growing by about 8% a year. These figures could include prefabrication and customized engineered wood systems.
It will also be crucial to take advantage of the rapid growth of the bioeconomy by producing a broad range of products in the area of bioenergy, biochemicals and bioproducts. In addition, the forest products industry is seeking out new partnerships with others interested in the innovative use of wood fibre, including the chemical, plastics, auto and biotech industries.
Many of the employees we are hoping to recruit under our Vision2020 goal of 60,000 new workers are not the kind of hires we made 100 years ago. Yes, we still need millwrights and foresters, but as the new forest products industry becomes a leader in the bioeconomy, it will also require the likes of innovators and chemists and international sales staff.
There has already been a lot of reinventing, redeveloping and re-engineering of the Canadian forest products industry and that transformation is now accelerating. So this year, we are proud to remember our glorious past and our considerable contribution to the Canadian economies of the 19th and 20th centuries. But it’s also time to focus our eyes firmly on the future in order to reach our potential in the 21st century – a future where the Canadian forest products industry will be a dynamic player in the global bioeconomy.
David Lindsay is president and CEO of the Forest Products Association of Canada.
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