Committed, hardworking, dedicated to excellence – these are a few of the words Mike Dextrase, plant manager Soda Creek, uses to describe the Tolko Williams Lake team – a team he believes had a great deal to do with Tolko’s recent success at the annual Williams Lake & District Chamber of Commerce Business Excellence Awards ceremony.
Held on March 14 before a sold out crowd at the Elks Hall, the awards ceremony recognized a number of businesses in the community for their contributions to the social and economic success of Williams Lake. Tolko was recognized with the Manufacturer of the Year award which is presented to a local business that manufactures quality products and has strengthened the economic base of Williams Lake.
“It was a great evening for everyone,” says Dextrase. “But we know our employees are the reason we were on stage accepting this award. Without their hard work and dedication it wouldn’t have been possible, so I want to extend a big thank-you to everyone at our Soda Creek and Lakeview divisions. I was proud to accept the award on their behalf.”
Dextrase outlined a number of recent improvements to the Williams Lake operations that he believes have helped the divisions remain competitive in the industry and contributed to the company’s success over the past two years. These improvements include replacing and upgrading all the equipment at the Lakeview sawmill back end, including the trimmer, optimizer, sorter and stacker and installing a completely new trimmer, optimized lumber grader, sorter, stacker and packaging equipment at Soda Creek.
“Capital improvements at both mills have led to increased product quality and value while improving our overall cost effectiveness,” says Dextrase.
“These projects have not significantly increased the production capacity of our mills, but they have substantively enhanced our product quality which has improved our competitive position in the marketplace.”
In addition to these capital upgrades, Dextrase noted the positive impact of Tolko’s new wood dust mitigation practices on overall safety and morale.
“Safety is the number one priority at Tolko. While we have focused on capital upgrades we have not neglected our safety practices.
“Over the past few years we have also installed a new dust collection system at Soda Creek to further improve the air quality at the planer. We’ve also installed a new trimmer at Lakeview and increased sawdust extraction in the mill which will prevent accumulation and reduce fire and explosion risk. Creating a safe, productive environment where employees are engaged is the key to our continued success.”
When asked where the award would be displayed, Dextrase said the award is for the entire team so they’ll pick a place where everyone can see it at both locations and then share it between both Soda Creek and Lakeview.
But Dextrase joked there might be some competition for the award.
“We had great representation at the awards ceremony. We had Jerry Mooney, woodlands manager; Todd Walters, sawmill superintendent Lakeview Lumber; Jim Mork, maintenance superintendent, Soda Creek; Peter Metcalf, maintenance superintendent, Lakeview Lumber; Stephanie Lauer, operations forester, Cariboo Woodlands; Tom Hoffman, manager external and stakeholder relations; and Scot Durward, human resources manager, Cariboo Region on hand to share in the celebration. We may have to work out a plan to share the award.”
Joking aside, Dextrase said he, and the entire Williams Lake team, is excited about the future. “We have positive momentum at our operations and our employees are a big part of that. Creating competitive, successful operations at Lakeview and Soda Creek certainly bodes well for the future of Tolko, the community and the economy of the area.”