There was a standing ovation from his peers for a pioneer lumberman Thursday night as he celebrated his 90th birthday at the Council of Forest Industries community dinner.
Ross Gorman has a quiet wisdom and a passion for the wood business, commented Morris Douglas, CEO of Synergy Pacific Engineered Timber.
Gorman began in the business using scrap wood to make apple boxes while his wife Eunice did the books for a young Gorman Brothers Lumber Company in what is now West Kelowna.
“He used to check for waste as the wood went to the chipper,” Douglas commented with a grin.
In his decades in the lumber industry in the Okanagan, he said, “Ross’s influence on those around him has been very positive. He’s a caring man: toward family, friends, employees and his community.”
He said he married his wife in 1946 and they had one boy and five girls. Today they have 15 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
Gorman was presented with a birthday cake by the group of timber company colleagues.
His son-in-law Nick Arkle, today a partner in the Gorman company, has just been elected chairman of the board of COFI, moving up from his post as vice-chairman.
He introduced the guest speaker of the evening, newly-named forests minister Steve Thomson.
Thomson acknowledged the “fragile recovery,” of the industry and committed to keep the focus on helping the industry recover.
“The Okanagan is proud of the industry, although people perhaps take it for granted,” he commented.
Of particular importance, he noted, is that it is a job-creating industry; jobs that support families.
Last year, he said lumber exports were 10 times that of 2003, with the largest emerging markets in China.
Former forests minister Pat Bell, now in the tourism portfolio, will continue responsibility for such international marketing, said Thomson.
He pointed to the province’s Wood First initiative, which encourages use of sustainable wood products for getting local governments throughout the province committed to using wood in public buildings.
As the new minister, he said he would be a strong advocate for the industry in caucus, cabinet and in public for its strong contribution to the province.
At the same time, he said it’s important that industry understand the cumulative impacts of various land uses on the land base.
Members of local government and First Nations from around the region joined the lumber industry for dinner.