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An enduring tradition

Bamoral CedarIn recent years, changing economic realities have often challenged New Brunswick’s forestry industry.

But a shingle company from Balmoral is defying all economic storms, successfully producing shingles for customers across two continents — and all in an environmentally-sustainable manner.

Today, storefronts, residential homes, and businesses dotting North America’s eastern seaboard sport Balmoral Cedar’s fine-quality white cedar shingles. And their slightly larger shingles can also be seen in markets throughout Belgium and France.

It all started in 1977 with 16 employees working in a little shingle mill with a crown allocation from public land. Twenty years later, Jacques LeVasseur and his wife purchased the company, relocated to modern facilities and continued to grow, adding machines and skilled employees (known as “sawyers”) to operate them.

Today, with its team of 35 employees, Cèdres Balmoral Cedar Ltd. is proud to be certified through the Sustainable Forestry Initiative and the ISO 140001 Environmental Management Standard — which not only oversee the way wood can be harvested, but help ensure respect for bird and animal nesting areas, deer yards, water courses and wetlands.

And their ongoing success is all the more gratifying considering recent slowdowns in the American construction market (which normally represents 80 per cent of their shingle sales) all of which has both reduced demand and dropped prices for shingles.
Their strategy for survival?

Chopping any unnecessary expenses and investing in automation to help lower costs without sacrificing quality or environmental standards.

According to Jacques, financial backing from ACOA has been especially helpful in challenging times, when traditional investors would have found their business too risky — but the assistance goes well beyond money.

“ACOA has always been interested in what we do. They visit occasionally and want to see how they can help us. They offer us advice, help us find ways to reduce our expenses and raise the efficiency of our operations.”

While Jacques emphasizes the importance of staying current with technology and product innovations in a challenging industry, people make it happen.

“Thanks to more efficient planning, security and work quality are improved, and that’s a big factor in a sector like ours that has very high turnover rates,” he emphasizes.
“But for us, the biggest factor in remaining competitive is the quality of our employees: they make the difference between our succeeding and failing.”

And like the shingle products they produce, this is one team bent on resilience whatever the storm.

Published October 19, 2012