If not for some inspired thinking from a handful of rank-and-file employees, Canfor House, a popular attraction at Canada Winter Games Plaza, might not have been there at all.
As Canfor Pulp president Brett Robinson put it, the idea originated about a year-and-a-half ago when the conversation turned to the Games during a company function.
“A bunch of our employees ended up in my room drinking beer and they said ‘we should build Canfor House,'” Robinson said Wednesday.
Already busy helping to organize the Games – he’s the executive chair of the Games host society – Robinson made it clear he simply did not have the time to participate in the project.
“I said ‘go for it, just don’t involve me,” Robinson said.
The result is a garage-size building used to showcase the products Canfor produces.
It’s built out of dimensional lumber with a log facade. Inside is furniture made out of more two-by-fours as well as a few 250-kilogram bales of pulp with pillows thrown on them to act as places to sit. And off in a corner is a wood stove burning pellets made at Canfor’s Houston facility.
If it ever gets cold out, it will serve as a good place to warm up during the breaks between the musical acts at the main stage.
But it’s been a popular spot nonetheless, in no small part because it’s been the place to get “lumberjacked.” It may not be on the same scale as “medalling” in the Games themselves, but so far about 1,500 people have been given a plaid toque with a fake beard sewn to it.
The toque-beards have been part of Canfor’s ongoing effort to convince young people to consider a career in the forest industry but they’ve also become a noted keepsake for visitors to remember Prince George by.
Over the course of the Games, Canfor will also have bused in about 900 high school students from across northern B.C. for a day in Prince George. The itinerary includes a stop at UNBC, a presentation on careers at Canfor, stopping by Canfor House and taking in an event at the Games.
“It’s just to try and make sure those surrounding communities have an opportunity to come to the Games as well,” Robinson said.
Contrary to the critics, Robinson said there is a future in the forest industry. To support his argument, Robinson recited a list of items made from Canfor pulp, from beer labels to the filters in K-cups to Kleenex tissue to bags for holding quick dry cement, dog food and fertilizer.
“Anything that is high quality, high strength that you want to hold together,” Robinson said.
He also said Canfor plants three times as many trees as it logs and, after thinning, grows twice as many.
“You show me an industry that’s more renewable,” Robinson said, adding that the bark from the logs is used to generate electricity.
“We’re the largest biofuel manufacturer in North America,” Robinson said.