Planning for future makes sense

Shorelines column with Editor/Publisher Kathy O'Reilly-Taylor

As Port Alice struggles with the “curtailment” of the Neucel Specialty Pulp mill two recent items in the news caught my attention.

I guess I interpreted the items as having to do with the success of companies who act proactively and who take care of their employees.

The first thing that made me stop and think was a posting on Facebook about Costco recently announcing record profits of $537 million, up from $394 million in the same period last year.

CEO Craig Jelinek said the secret for their success was that they paid their workers an average salary of $45,000 a year, provided them with health insurance, and let them unionize.

“At Costco, we know that paying employees good wages makes good sense for business,” Jelinik said in a statement.

“Instead of minimizing wages, we know it’s a lot more profitable in the long term to minimize employee turnover and maximize employee productivity, commitment and loyalty.”

The second item was an announcement last week by Western Forest Products that plans to spend $30 million to upgrade its mills in Nanaimo, Ladysmith and Chemainus.

The investment is part of the company’s $125-million capital strategic investment program, announced in 2013, to remain competitive and help it gain access to new markets.

“Our strategy is to invest in the mills, make them extremely efficient, and then add more hours to our production facilities and that’s where we’ll see the job increase,” said Don Demens, Western Forest Products president and chief executive officer.

The company will spend $28 million to modernize the sawmill, planer mill and install new automatic grading technology at Duke Point. Of that, $17 million will be spent on the planer to allow the mill to start producing specialty products for Japan and ‘appearance’ products for the North American, Chinese and other markets around the world, said Demens.

The remaining $2 million will be divided between its other central Island mills.

The investment comes at a time when prices are low and there is little demand from the new home construction industry in the U.S. For certain wood products there is strong competition in foreign markets from other lumber-producing countries.

“Markets over the last few months have been pretty challenging,” Demens said.

These stories prove that paying employees a living wage does not hurt profits and that tough times are an opportunity for companies to invest and expand what they are doing with a goal of earning more money and creating more jobs, not to close their doors and wait for markets to improve.

Just like salmon, it is those who swim against the current that ensure the survival of the species.