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Nanaimo man to head Western Forest Products

The Island's largest forestry company has a new leader with Nanaimo roots.

Western Forest Products recently announced the appointment of Don Demens as president. He takes over this role from Dominic Gammiero, who remains CEO and board chairman of the company.

Originally hired in 2009, Demens was later appointed senior vice-president of sales and manufacturing and in 2011, assumed the role of chief operating officer.

Demens grew up in Nanaimo and is the third generation of his family in the coastal forestry business – his father managed sawmills, including WFP's Duke Point mill when it was owned by another company, and his grandfather managed a sawmill in the Port Alberni area.

Demens has worked in the forestry business for 27 years, including a 4.5-year stint in a lumber sales office in Japan.

"Don has been instrumental in the turnaround of Western," said Gammiero in a press release. "Under his leadership, we have seen a change in business culture with a strong focus on margin. This appointment positions Western with a strong succession framework to build the future of the company."

Demens said downsizing and restructuring contributed to the company's survival of the industry downturn, which started in 2008.

The company just reported its 11th consecutive quarter of positive financial results, he added.

"The most important thing from my perspective is the people on the Island worked hard generating the results we've generated," said Demens. "It's certainly positive for our employees and our team that the board has seen fit that we go forward with our strategic capital plan. Our objective is to be seen as globally competitive and sustainable."

Western will invest $200 million in its sawmill and timberland operations over the next three years.

Demens said the company has announced $23 million in improvements so far, affecting its mills in Port Alberni and Saltair, with more announcements to come. He said it is too soon to say whether any announcements will impact Western's two Nanaimo sawmill operations.

Rick Jeffery, president of Coast Forest Products, of which Western is a member with representation on the board of directors, said the association is happy with the appointment.

"Western is turning itself around," he said. "Don has been a critical part of that, in moving the company forward."

Jeffery said Western is a good example of what is happening on the coast – companies are working hard to improve competitiveness and focused on expanding into higher-value products and markets.

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