Our story begins with the Thorlaksons and a set of values. This family and these values created Tolko, and three generations later, both are still integral parts of the way we conduct ourselves. It is because of these values that we have been able to face adversity and succeed, and why we are committed to sharing that success with those around us.
Thorlakur Thorlakson and Ingibjorg Jahannsdottir leave Iceland for Canada. Travelling alone, the two meet in Winnipeg, fall in love, and marry. Following a short stay in Winnipeg, they move to the grasslands above Vernon, BC and start a family farm. Thorlakur and Ingibgjorg have six children, two daughters and four sons, including Tolko industries founder Harold Thorlakson.
Thorlakur and Ingibjorg raise their children with a strong sense of fairness and teach them that hard work and an entrepreneurial spirit are the path to a brighter future.
Founding the business 1955-1972
THE LEGACY BEGINS:
With all three boys back in the business, the company begins to gather steam.
Lavington Planer Mill Ltd. makes its first major acquisition and doubles in size with the purchase of Hoover Sawmills Ltd.
Based upon family discussions, the company gets a new name: Tolko Industries Ltd. Many people wonder where "Tolko" comes from – it is composed of every second letter of the Thorlakson name.
Fire destroys the Hoover sawmill operation and the company consolidates both locations at Lavington. A second sawmill line and a graveyard shift are added to help accommodate the growth.
Harold Thorlakson, seeing the business was doing well in the hands of his sons, turns control of the business over to them.
Matriarch Jemma Thorlakson passes away leaving behind three boys who have grown up to understand the value of an education and working hard to create a better future. Jemma, a nurse and strong, successful career woman in her own right, had used her education to support Harold and the family while they built their dream. She made sure the boys understood the family values and embedded in them a strong vision for the company as a family business.
Founder and patriarch Harold Thorlakson suffers a stroke and passes away. Harold’s legacy as a tough but fair businessman whose handshake was his word, who did what he said he would do, lives on to this day.
Tolko purchases Ernst Forest Products in Quesnel. Tolko invests in manufacturing improvements and changes the division’s name to Quest Wood.
With an eye to future growth, Tolko initiates its strategic planning process. A mission is defined and the five Thorlakson family principles Harold and Jemma had applied to the daily operation of the business are formally stated and codified as the Tolko values of: Respect, Integrity, Open Communication, Profit, and Progressiveness.
Tolko purchases Balco Industries, whose head office and main manufacturing plant are located in Heffley Creek, BC. The company also has operations in Merritt and Louis Creek. The acquisition includes the Heffley Creek plywood plant, launching Tolko into the plywood business – its first step into product diversification.
Tolko purchases Nova Lumber, located near North Vancouver on Burrard Inlet. The division is known as Inlet Cedar and a new product, Tolko Topflight, is introduced. Inlet Cedar operates for nearly 10 years before its closure for business reasons.
PURSUING GEOGRAPHIC AND PRODUCT DIVERSIFICATION:
Product and geographic diversification become fundamental to Tolko’s strategic direction.
NOT SO SMOOTH SAILING:
An economic downturn challenges Tolko and the industry to expand their horizons.
Just as things are looking brightest with Tolko opening its new corporate office in downtown Vernon, the economy collapses. The downturn coincides with the devastating invasion of the mountain pine beetle, which decimates the forests of British Columbia. To deal with these situations, Tolko consolidates its holdings and curtails operations at its High Prairie OSB location.
As the economic downturn shows no signs of relenting, Tolko is forced to close its Creekside Mill and mothball Athabasca Engineered Wood Products.
In an effort to minimize the impact of the downturn, Tolko Marketing and Sales Ltd. begins to explore international markets, particularly China. Before the end of the downturn, these will come to represent nearly 50% of Tolko’s product market.