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BWA Proud Partner with Next Generation Manufacturing Supercluster!

After six months of working with various industry sector leaders, academia, and other partners, the Bluewater Wood Alliance is representing the value-added wood products sector in the biggest manufacturing supercluster in Canada!

Navdeep Bains, Canada’s Minister for Innovation, Science and Economic Development, announced Thursday that the Next Generation Manufacturing Supercluster was one of the successful bids.

What this means for our wood products manufacturing industry, is that we are at the table with other big industries in Canada like automotive, aerospace, IT, robotics, and other major sectors. Our profile is now raised higher, along with the importance of our wood products manufacturing industry to the economy! The BWA is very excited to be appointed to their board of Directors!

There are three pillars to the Advanced Manufacturing Supercluster strategy:

  • co-invest in collaborative, industry-led projects in things like vision systems, AI, IoT, data security, robotics, advanced materials, and additive manufacturing
  • support the creation of new tools, testbeds, and infrastructure to help create the next generation of manufacturing firms
  • build out a robust ecosystem of supports and services that accelerate technology adoption in manufacturing i.e. technology readiness assessments, training and skills development, and go-to-market support

As the first and only Porterian cluster in North America for the wood industry, the already established BWA cluster was an important element of the Supercluster bid. BWA member wood companies can participate in, and benefit from, projects and initiatives created from the collective momentum that the BWA cluster delivers. Governments like to work with clusters because they can help multiple companies all at once. The BWA project within the Supercluster is going to bring funding for investment in game-changing technologies to BWA members. The details are currently being worked out while a contribution agreement with the federal government is negotiated. More concrete details will be confirmed when this is completed.

Joining an industry cluster like the BWA brings you to the table for many opportunities, such as the Next Generation Manufacturing Supercluster project, that single small and medium-sized companies would not have access to on their own.

See these links for more details on the Next Generation Manufacturing Canada Supercluster:

Stay tuned for more details as the project unfolds!

BWA Finishes 2016 Hitting Milestone of 100 Member Companies!

Greetings everyone!

This past year has been a very busy and productive one for the BWA and its members! Factories are busy! Members are engaging in BWA networking events, plant tour focus groups, projects, and training.

New members are joining, and our industry is starting to get some momentum. This past week, our 100th member joined: True North Log Homes in Bracebridge.

The BWA now sits at 70 manufacturing and 30 associate supplier members, and we are continuing to grow!

Here are some of the highlights of this year:

  •  4 Plant Tour Focus Groups engaging members in Continuous Improvement methodology
  •  4 Quarterly networking events with subject matter expertise and supply chain members
  •  First quarterly event hosted by Post-Secondary Institution (Conestoga) with visit by Hon.  Minister McGarry, MNRF
  • 2 public Finishing training sessions followed by in-house training by subscribing members
  • 2 High School wood shop tours to BWA members for workforce development
  • Export development project to Index Design Show, Dubai, UAE in May, 2016
  • Export development project to High Point Market, High Point, NC. for April and Oct markets
  • BWA offers sponsors to 20 High schools for Woodlinks curriculum with Wood Manufacturing Council
  • BWA participates on 2 program advisory committees for post secondary: Conestoga and Georgian College to facilitate industry input to curriculum
  • The BWA is continuing to pursue opportunities for its members with its government partners, and wishes to thank the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry for its ongoing support!

Make sure to mark Jan 25th, 2017 in your calendar for the next Pant Tour Focus Group hosted by GCW Cabinets in St. Thomas!

On behalf of the Bluewater Wood Alliance, its members and board of directors, we wish everyone a Christmas and prosperous new year!

We can’t wait to see what 2017 has in store for us in 2017!


Best regards,

Mike Baker

Executive Director


[email protected]

EDC’s Peter Hall Has Good News for the Wood Industry!

On March 30th Peter Hall, Chief Economist from Export Development Canada, presented to the BWA. Read on to see his latest commentary on the prospects of the wood industry!


APRIL 7, 2016

Rising Out of the (Saw)Dust

By Peter G Hall,

Vice-President and Chief Economist

Wood products from this neck of the woods are older than Canada itself. One can hardly picture this country without tall, ruler-straight old-growth trees, logs floating down a river to the sawmill, and so on. Wood is synonymous with our economic development, and remains an important part of Canadian exports. Exporters of all stripes were pummeled by the recession, but few have been hit as hard in the past fifteen years as the wood products industry. Were the losses permanent, or is there hope for a revival anytime soon?


In 2015, wood products exports brought in over $15 billion of revenue to Canadian businesses. However, as recently as 2004, it was a $24 billion moneymaker, so it has seen a significant shakeup. Global recession wasn’t really the big enemy; the industry lost its footing with the rapid appreciation of the Canadian dollar between 2003 and 2008. From 2004 to 2009, wood products exports plummeted 66 per cent, devastating most sub-sectors of the industry. In some cases, there was barely anything left of the industry. Layer on a deep global recession, followed by an extremely slow recovery, and most would conclude that the industry was either on its way out, or no longer really a player. But are they right?


Wood products shipments are dominated by sawmill activity – largely spruce-pine-fir 2X4’s, which account for 62 per cent of the industry’s exports. Mirroring the industry total, it lost two-thirds of total shipments from the turn of the millennium through 2009, an unimaginable loss of activity. Many businesses, particularly smaller ones, folded, never to rise again. Others toughed it out, hoping for better times. They’re likely glad they did: since the trough, annual growth in exports has averaged almost 14 per cent. The driver? For the most part, the steady recovery of US housing starts, which have more than doubled over the same timeframe. True, exports are still just 75 per cent of 2000 levels, but the sector has climbed a long way up from its chasm.


Waferboard is the second-largest sub-sector in the industry. From its recent peak in 2004, the industry saw an 85 per cent plunge. While it still has a long way to go to regain previous heights, survivors have been enjoying 19 per cent annual export sales growth since 2011.


Next on the list is household wood furniture. It used to command 8 per cent of sales, but that share was almost halved. The rise of the loonie chopped $1.8 billion in export sales down to less than $500 million, and the industry has only just begun to recover in the last couple of years. Again, those who managed to hold on are seeing a bonanza: 15 per cent average growth in 2014-15.


Roll a number of the remaining categories together – such as plywood, veneers, particle board, windows and doors, kitchen cabinets and the like – and the pattern is much the same. Collectively, exports peaked in 2004, and from there through 2012, 60 per cent of activity vanished. Hangers-on again were rewarded: since bottoming out, sales are climbing at an annual average of 20 per cent.


Among all the categories, one stands out. Like the rest, wood office furniture fell on hard times that seemed to precede both currency appreciation and the Great Recession. It saw a long, steady decline through to the recession, a sharper drop in 2009 and a further stumble in 2010. Then, a quick jump, and a couple of flat years. Then, another jump in 2014, and a massive 26.6 per cent increase in 2015, taking total sales back to a level last seen in 2002. Last year’s surge was likely aided by the weaker loonie, but could also reflect the aggressive increase in US business investment that was triggered by tightening capacity constraints in key American industries.


This industry illustrates that even in sectors hit hardest by the huge trade headwinds of the new millennium, there is hope – they are indeed rising smartly from their dreadful lows, investing heavily, and in certain cases have previous peaks in sight.


The bottom line? Canada’s wood products industry might have been written off by some, but internationally diversified sales and rising US demand are combining with a weaker Canadian dollar to revive the industry – and the best is yet to come.


This commentary is presented for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a comprehensive or detailed statement on any subject and no representations or warranties, express or implied, are made as to its accuracy, timeliness or completeness. Nothing in this commentary is intended to provide financial, legal, accounting or tax advice nor should it be relied upon. Neither EDC nor the author is liable whatsoever for any loss or damage caused by, or resulting from, any use of or any inaccuracies, errors or omissions in the information provided.


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BWA Recognizes Hon. Minister Bill Mauro, MNRF, for Supporting BWA Cluster! BWA Now Expanding Cluster Region to include Southwestern Ontario!

Its not easy getting 1-1 time with a provincial Minister, but the BWA did! Read on to learn why and what has been happening with the BWA!

Based on the Upper Austria Clusterland Model, the BWA continues to evolve toward sustainability over time with the increase in membership and development of other revenue streams. Since the inception of the BWA in 2011, the accomplishments and the reach of the BWA continue to accrue with earnest!

If not for the initial support of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) Wood Promotions Branch, the BWA would not have been able to facilitate any of the collaborative projects that have benefited wood product manufacturing companies in southwestern Ontario. These companies would otherwise not have access to these opportunities. Examples include:

•   Export development projects introducing members to new markets, such as the Index show in Dubai, UAE, and the High Point Market in High Point, North Carolina

•   Recent OMAFRA RED project funding to help companies adopt new technologies and initiate process improvement projects. $500,000 in funding leveraged over $3 million in member project investment over the past 2 years!

•   Monthly Plant Tour Focus groups where members learn from each other’s challenges, solutions, best practices, and adoption of lean principles

•   Learning events where members have access to subject matter experts through a shared cost model, making expertise affordable and accessible

•   Quarterly Networking Events leveraging the supply chain members for expertise and technology transfer

•   Participate on Program Advisory Committees for Community Colleges to connect industry needs with workforce development stakeholders

•   Sponsorship of 20 high schools in southwestern Ontario to adopt the Woodlinks cirriculum

•   Facilitate a bottom-up driven organization where industry dictates the agenda

•   Most recently, the BWA has expanded the cluster region to include the whole of southwestern Ontario!

•   Recently hit a milestone of 80 members

•   Membership is dominated by manufacturers, with an 80/20 ratio manufacturers to suppliers

The BWA wanted to recognize and thank the Hon Minister Bill Mauro and the MNRF for supporting its operations. The successes of the BWA are also successes of the MNRF!

A solid maple plaque was created, and presented to the Hon Minster in Queens Park on Dec 3, 2015 by BWA Executive Director, Michael Baker.

The Hon Minister Mauro was very grateful and appreciative of the BWA’s efforts, noting that the BWA is an “Important good news story for the industry”.

As the meeting rapped up, the minister made it very clear: “Keep it growing Mike, and keep up the great work”.

Growing we are! And our members are succeeding!

And so we move forward into the New Year with great momentum!

If you want more information on the BWA and its activities, contact BWA Executive Director, Mike Baker at: [email protected]

Hon Minister Bill Mauro (left) receives award of recognition from BWA Executive Director, Mike Baker

Hon Minister Bill Mauro (left) receives award of recognition from BWA Executive Director, Mike Baker.



BWA Featured in Ontario Wood Manufacturing Video!

The BWA was asked to participate in a feature video portraying wood manufacturing in Ontario and the career opportunities!

The Four County Labour Market Planning board approached the Bluewater Wood Alliance to participate in a province-wide initiative to profile wood product manufacturing in Ontario, and career opportunities available for young people.

Three BWA companies participated in the video: South Bruce Flooring, West Bros Furniture, and Speke Klein. Footage includes their shop floor and various stages of their product manufacturing processes, along with interviews with BWA Manager Mike Baker, and V.P. of South Bruce Flooring, Dennis McGlynn.

BWA 2014 Year in Review!

Another year has passed for the BWA with much to reflect on and be proud of!

For all of us in what we do, this is the time of year to step back and reflect on the year’s activities; our accomplishments and challenges faced.

When you look back, the Bluewater Wood Alliance has much to be thankful for, and much to look forward to in the new year ahead!

Facilitating and sustaining a true cluster model itself is no easy feat! We have manufacturing and supplier members with divergent products, needs, and markets. What is important to one company may not be toanother at any particular time. Our ongoing challenge is finding collaborative opportunities that stick and provide value for all involved. We need to be aware that while one project or activity may involve a small number of members, in one circumstance, future projects will branch out to the rest. This is certainly at the root of the evolution of the BWA, and the year’s activities surely demonstrate how we are beginning to mature as a true functioning cluster!

In January of this year members assembled for a round-table discussion to learn about government funding opportunities. In February, we had a plant tour focus group at West Bros Furniture with a focus continuous improvement, and the March networking event hosted a high-impact finishing forum. In April, Royal Oak Kitchens hosted a plant tour focus group, and in May, six BWA members participated in an export development project with product showing at the Index Design show in Dubai, UAE in partnership with our friends at NRCan and MNR, and associate member sponsors.

June’s networking event covered ergonomics and witnessed the maturation of the board of directors with our third AGM and the election of newboard members, coinciding with the amendment of our by-laws to allow associate members to be elected to the board. The board now has a total of 10 members: nine manufacturers and one associate supplier member. This group of industry leaders will continue to guide the BWA in its evolution going forward.

One big accomplishment for the BWA this year is the facilitation of Rural Affairs Ontario’s RED project with objectives to create jobs, increase company sustainability, and develop new markets .  BWA received funding over 2 years to administer this improvement project funding to members. Twenty five members submitted improvement projects for which they received 50% funding up to alimited maximum. Total value of projects submitted reached 1.1 million, for which members will receive a total of $250,000 in this year alone. This is a fund, that if it were not for the BWA, they would otherwise not be eligible orhave access to. This project will be running again in 2015.

In August, members convened for a round table on Lean strategies for administration, and September hosted our networking event with aforum on ergonomics and hardware technologies. In October, Homestead Woodworks hosted a plant tour focus group that hosted members from across the wide expanse of our greater cluster region. You know there is value when you have this level of engagement across our membership.

Other projects in 2014 included the collaboration of research into the potential for an online product configurator in partnership with IRAP, along with ongoing perusal of export development activities that will include the U.S., Europe, and potentially Chinese markets.

Moving into 2015 the BWA has much to be thankful for! We look forward to a new year of growth and development of the cluster, while we strive to increase the competitiveness of our member companies. Many thanks to Paul Mingay and our friends at MNR’s Ontario Wood Promotions program, NRCan, IRAP, and all of our community partners for their ongoing support and encouragement!

On behalf of the BWA board of directors and our members, we wish to extend to you and your families all the best for the holiday season, and a prosperous 2015!

Mike Baker

Manager, Bluewater Wood Alliance

Mike Vokes of Vokes Furniture speaks to potential buyers at Index 2015 in Dubai, UAE

Mike Vokes of Vokes Furniture speaks to potential buyers at Index 2015 in Dubai, UAE


Annual Mike McGlynn Memorial Wood Fair a Growing Success!

Mike McGlynn was the victim of a tragic woodlot workplace accident in December, 2012. His spirit lives on in this amazing event that is everything wood from the tree to finished product!

Sept 13, 2014 marked the 2nd annual Mike McGlynn memorial event that took place at the Wingham Community Centre. See details via this link:

This event is driven to increase the awareness in young people and the public about the opportunities to work in the wood industry in the region.

A wide variety of activities at the event included wood cutting demonstrations, woodworking project competitions, product and equipment demonstrations, auctions, a dance, a pie eating contest, birds of prey demonstrations, jugglers, comedians, and much more!

The BWA participated with a booth and solicited the help of the Georgian College and Sepp Gmeiner of Lignam Consulting to assist with judging the high school woodworking project competition.

This event promises to grow even bigger next year! Please keep an eye open for opportunities for you and your organization/company to participate in various ways! Here are a few shots of the action!

Dennis McGlynn of South Bruce Flooring competes in the log cutting contest

Dennis McGlynn of South Bruce Flooring competes in the log cutting contest.

Two bald eagles! An adult male bald eagle enjoys the crowd as a second bald eagle: BWA Manager Mike Baker looks on!

Two bald eagles! An adult male bald eagle enjoys the crowd as a second bald eagle: BWA Manager Mike Baker looks on!