A local logging business recently received a financial boost from the provincial government.
Barker Logging in Devlin received $170,341 to help offset a $850,000 investment spent on constructing a bush shack, and purchasing a wood loader, long-haul skidder, and truck.
Business owner Jon Barker said the recent investment will go a long way in expanding production capabilities and retaining quality employees.
“We're able to run a more efficient business and be more successful in the long term,” he noted.
"One of the skidders we bought was a bigger skidder than we had previously, so you end up being able to pull more wood with less hours.
“Employees right now are crazy hard to get and its a really comfortable machine to run too, so it kind of helps attract guys,” Barker added.
He says employees who operate the skidder will spend 12-14 hours a day inside it, so having a quality machine helps keep dependable employees at Barker Logging.
“We've been really lucky, we've got a number of really good employees . . . but the more you grow the more guys you need,” Barker reasoned.
“You got to go through about five deadbeats before you get one good guy employee and the equation is actually quite simple-if you got good guys you'll make money and if you don't you won't.”
Barker says purchasing a new bush shack will also help with employee satisfaction.
“It's about two hours from here to where we work," he explained. "The guys live in the bush, they're there more than they are at home, so you want them comfortable.”
Barker says his business has undergone immense growth since when it was first started, about 15 years ago.
It began with him being the sole employee, using a cable skidder and chain saw to harvest wood.
“Now we got 16 employees and six subcontractors. Our total investment that . . . we've made into the company year after year, has been about $5 million,” Barker noted.
"A lot of that's from every time we made a little bit of money we'd sink it back into the company, and a lot of times we don't take a paycheque home, we just keep investing it back into our company.
“It's been extremely difficult at times, logging in Ontario is not easy,” he added.
Barker told the Times running the business is extremely difficult; a lot of times he's working up to 80 hours a week to keep things afloat, but in the end, he says he loves his job.
“I love what I do and the guys that I work with are awesome, so that kind of makes it a little bit nicer, but really the return in the end is pretty minimal when you think about the time that you're actually spending,” he reasoned.
Forestry is a major industry in northwestern Ontario, and unlike mining, Barker says its the most sustainable.
“Mining is up and down, it's boom or bust, but forestry's not, forestry's steady . . . has been the milestone of this area for a number of years,” he remarked.
“It will still be there when the mine shuts down.”