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Timberspan Wood Products – 30 year Canadian Dream | Northern BC Business
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Timberspan Wood Products – 30 year Canadian Dream

As a 16-year-old living in his native Slovenia, Joe Cvenkel dreamt of living somewhere where he could be surrounded by forest and be his own boss. Today, he lives on a rural property southeast of Prince George, ten-minutes away from Timberspan Wood Products – the company he has operated since 2007.

I visit Joe at the Timberspan mill-site on a cool January day. With a thick accent, he shares his story from behind the desk in his modest office which is comfortably warm, thanks to the wood burning heater. Before starting Timberspan, Joe worked for other established mills in the area and then the College of New Caledonia but the dream of working in a commercial environment kept pulling at him. “It was in my mind for 10-15 years,” says Joe. “I’d worked with Birch and Balsam but always came back to Douglas Fir because the old growth fir here (in Northern BC) is better and so much more esthetically pleasing than the second and third growth fir from the south.”

We walk outside, Joe takes me on a walking tour of the new mill, built in 2016. We are surrounded by stacks of dimension fir lumber, beautiful fir beams and smaller beams used in bridge supports and bridge decks. “The major mills don’t really want fir,” he says, pointing to a broken blade. “It’s a dense wood and really hard on saw blades. Unlike spruce and pine, it’s not easy to cut and shape.”

Back in the office, Joe bends to put fresh wood in the stove. As he straightens up to stretch, he looks out the window into the cold.  “You know, the first couple of years were tough. My office was an old motorhome and many nights I slept here. I couldn’t get financing. I’d rented a small piece of land, Wood Mizer provided vendor financing for the sawmill and I borrowed money from friends just to buy logs. When I was able to get credit-terms, I was only able to get 5-10 days credit but I’d still have to wait 7 days to get the logs. It was a struggle”

It was two years before Joe hired his first employee. Now, ten years later, his eight employees and two large Wood Mizer mills work six days a week. “We’re still an outside mill but we have a small break room where the guys warm up in the winter. We can’t operate below -20 as the machinery breaks down. We will never be a big mill and I am happy what we are doing now”

You can see the passion in Joe’s eyes when he talks of the mill. He’s shipped his fir timbers all over Canada and the US and even some internationally. Customers see the quality of the wood and appreciate the cuts. He has repeat customers and his referral business is strong. “I make sure it is done right and people know they are getting quality. We are from Prince George we can make douglas fir timbers better than anyone else in the world.” Pointing to the drawings on the table beside him, “We will continue to use the whole log in our projects and we’re now working out big ideas around energy and forest conservation”.

Joe has now lived in Prince George for longer than he lived in Slovania. “Yes, my accent is still there and I speak the language with my family, but I am from Prince George and proud of doing business here”


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Posted by on 12:17 pm. Filed under BC Economy, Business Profiles, Economic Development, Featured, Forest Industry, North Central, Oil & Gas, Our environment. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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