ANDERSON, Calif. — A quartet of college students from Quincy, Calif., have an idea for how to create jobs by using the wood waste at lumber mills.
They want to turn the wood into chopsticks to sell to China, where they say a shortage exist.
“One-third of the world uses chopsticks as utensils,” said Kambel Kenaston, 20, as he and his fellow Feather River College students prepared to make a presentation at the Sierra Cascade Logging conference here.
“We’re here to get feedback from people” in the industry, he said. “We think adding in a chopstick factory at our mill would add 100 jobs, and we only have a population of 5,000 people.”
The young entrepreneurs were set to have a meeting this week with officials from Sierra Pacific Industries, which operates the lumber mill in Quincy.
Their presentation Feb. 7 was a highlight of the three-day logging conference and forest products expo at the Shasta District Fairgrounds, which included speakers and workshops as well as logging exhibitions, log loading and truck driving skills competitions and a “backhoe rodeo.”
The students’ appearance was part of the conference’s overall emphasis on education, as about 800 elementary school students toured the grounds on Feb. 6, FFA members tested their knowledge of forestry and other college students held logging sports competitions.
The Feather River students got the idea of producing chopsticks while on a plane ride, as 21-year-old Bradley Marquette read a magazine article about a Georgia chopsticks factory that had closed because it couldn’t meet its rapidly growing contracts.
The Chinese go through more than 200 billion pairs of chopsticks a year, the students said, and there isn’t enough wood in their depleted forests to keep up with demand. A high Russian tax deters Chinese loggers from harvesting wood from their northern neighbor, said Andrew Reed, 20, another of the students.
“Our idea is we want to take local lumber – unused wood – and turn it into chopsticks for China,” Reed said. “We have all this lumber right now, right at our feet.”
Roommates Reed, Marquette, Kenaston and 20-year-old Mat Molina have experience in business together. They already own a cafe in Quincy, which they plan to turn into a sports bar when they’re all old enough to sell beer, Kenaston said.
The students are doing the chopsticks project as part of an entrepreneurship class at Feather River. At the conference, they were appearing in a workshop on global marketing in the timber industry.
“Right now we’re in the research and development phase,” Reed said. “We’re here today to present an idea and learn.”
Sierra Cascade Logging Conference: http://sierracascadeexpo.com
Feather River College: http://www.frc.edu