British Columbia's forests minister upbeat about industry's future on visit to Aspen Planers, other wood companies in Merritt as part of regional tour, says ministry continues to work at diversifying markets, promoting trade with China, Japan

MERRITT, British Columbia , August 14, 2013 () – The Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations visited Merritt on Monday as part of a regional tour through the Southern Interior and Kootenays.

One of Minister Steve Thomson’s local stops was Aspen Planers, where he met with Fraser-Nicola MLA Jackie Tegart and Aspen Planers officials, discussing the forestry industry.

The minister also met with First Nations and wood-producing companies in the Merritt area as well as members of city council. His last stop in the area was at the Nicola Fire Base.

Thomson told the Herald it had been a while since his last visit through Merritt.

“We were over here last fall, but it’s great to get back. It’s a great area and [it’s] great working with Jackie Tegart, the new MLA here, and lots of opportunity here. There are some exciting things happening,” he said.

Thomson said Aspen Planers is one of the key players in the economics of Merritt and the region.

Thomson also made clear the ministry’s mandate is to help facilitate jobs, economic activity and build the economies of communities in B.C.

Thomson said his ministry sees a positive future in the forestry industry as market returns improve.

He also said the ministry continues to work at diversifying markets in places such as China and Japan.

In October, Thomson will be leading a trade mission to China and Japan, which was mandated by the premier.

Tegart said she’s pleased to be serving on the Environmental Land Use Committee, which Thomson chairs.

“It’s important to have that rural voice there,” Tegart said.

At the fire base, the minister met with fire crews to congratulate them on their success in extinguishing fires this year.

“I’ve really been impressed with the professionalism that our fire management branch has [and] the response times across the province,” Thomson said.

“I know here, particularly, they’re looking forward to getting into the new base and the new facilities we have for them, but right now they’re focused on the job at hand and we’ll get them over to the new base at the appropriate time.”

A new fire management base is set to open on Airport Road in the near future.

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