Class of 1983
Leon K. Koerner joined the family business in Czechoslovakia in 1920, at the time of central Europe’s largest forest products enterprises. The Second World War was to play a major part in the relocation of the Koerner family to Canada.
A number of innovative European logging techniques, such as the chute made of logs, were introduced to Canada when the Koerners moved to British Columbia. More than a third of B.C. forests consisted of a wood known as hemlock. The Koerners brothers understood the process required to manufacture lumber from the hemlock trees. Against the advice of skeptics, Leon incorporated new processes in the mill. From his European experience he recognized that with proper drying and cutting, worldwide markets would open to him. By marketing the lumber under its botanical name – Alaska Pine – Koerner began to make substantial sales of the formerly unwanted wood. Among his customers were those formerly supplied by the Koerners in Europe.
Through acquisitions along the B.C. coast, the company grew from small logging camps on floats to fully integrated lumber operation including woodfibre manufacturing and the processing of cellulose.
Leon Koerner was a pioneer in improving working conditions and labour relations for his employees.