Located due west of Vancouver across the Salish Sea, this growing city of 90,000 combines beautiful scenery with city amenities for a coastal lifestyle that’s tough to beat.


While taking pride in its diverse economy, the “Harbour City” has a long history with the forest sector, based primarily on wood and paper manufacturing.

The construction of the Harmac pulp and paper mill in 1950 marked the start of an era – at the time, it was the city’s only major industrial employer. Today, the mill (now owner-operated as Nanaimo Forest Products) remains an important part of the local economy, producing 400,000 annual metric tonnes of high-quality kraft pulps. This makes the Harmac mill one of the largest producers of pulp products in Canada.

First Nations and Local Mills, Working Together

Recently, Nanaimo Forest Products (Harmac) became one of four signatories committed to working with First Nations to promote their increased involvement in the B.C. forest sector.

This new direction is an effort to build stronger relationships between the forestry sector and First Nations, and to create mutually beneficial economic opportunities while securing the future of forestry in the area.

In an interview with the Nanaimo News Bulletin, Cam Milne, fiber manager with Nanaimo Forest Products (Harmac), highlighted that many local mills require fibre and that partnerships with First Nations can secure the necessary supply of fibre while creating economic opportunities in First Nations communities:

“Our idea is to work cooperatively together and see if there are opportunities to start businesses, to partner with First Nations to put people to work, put First Nation groups to work in a useful endeavour.”

-Nanaimo News Bulletin, Jan 20, 2017

A World-Class Forestry Education

Not many universities are lucky enough to have their own working forest 10 minutes away from campus.  Vancouver Island University in Nanaimo makes sure its students are prepared for the well-paying forestry jobs in the area and uses its own 1,700-hectare forest on Mount Benson to give students the advantage of real experience.

The 2-year Forest Resources Technology diploma offered by VIU is a hands-on education that launches graduates into a variety of forestry-related career paths as diverse as recreation, GIS, geology, utilities, and the c-suite of forestry firms.

Local forestry companies return year after year to hire students, many of whom transition into full-time roles in the industry. Speaking to the program website, Jonathan Lok, Managing Partner of Strategic Natural Resource Consultants, summarises it best:

“We live and work in the most amazing environment in the world and we need amazing people to join us. We consistently find them at VIU.”

-VIU Forestry (link here)

About Forestry Friendly Communities BC

Learn more

Forestry Friendly Communities was started in 2016 as a way to celebrate the proud history and rich future of BC’s coast forest sector.  The term “Forestry Friendly” is intended to recognize pride in, and an ongoing commitment to BC’s forestry sector. In fact, the forest sector supports 1 in 16 jobs in BC. It also contributes $12.4 billion to the provincial GDP and injects $2.5 billion in taxes and fees to the three levels of government.

For more than a century, the forest sector has fueled our coastal economy and shaped our communities. Today, people and businesses across BC’s coastal region depend on transportation networks and other services developed for our forest sector. Families are able to earn a living while enjoying a unique West Coast lifestyle.

Forestry Friendly Communities is proudly brought to you by companies and associations working in forestry in coastal BC.