The parking lot at Vernon’s Kal Tire Place is filled with large-scale forestry equipment this week. It’s part of an annual industry trade show and conference put on by the Interior Logging Association (I.L.A.). Organizers estimate attendance is up about 25 per cent compared to last year and many attendees are bullish about the industry’s future.

“The industry has come through a very challenging time but [there is] lots of optimism and opportunity,” says Steve Thomson, Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations.

However, there are still challenges.

“The main challenges are probably the rates that the contractors are getting paid and [finding] employees,” says Wayne Lintott, I.L.A. general manager.

Thomson says the province will work on those issues as it develops a forest sector competitive strategy. When it comes to finding staff, Alberta’s pain could be forestry’s gain.

“It’s been tough the last couple of years, in areas like Revelstoke and Nakusp, the younger kids have all gone up to Fort McMurray,” says Lintott. “But now that that’s dropped off [and] we are seeing some return of some of the employees.”

The trade show and conference wraps up Saturday with displays and a seminar at Kal Tire Place.