Tony Willis receives inaugural award for services to forestry

2 March 2012

At the first Confor industry dinner, Tony Willis, managing director of Euroforest Ltd, was presented with the inaugural award for distinguished service to forestry by Stewart Stevenson, MSP, Scotland’s minister for environment and climate change, who also spoke about the importance of new commercial planting.

Tony has had a long and distinguished career in the industry, since studying forestry in North Wales. At Forest Thinnings he pioneered the large-scale export of small roundwood to Scandinavia in order to find a market for the rapidly expanding UK timber harvest, which had little domestic market at the time, leading to the award of the prestigious Queen’s Award for Export Achievement in 1978. Following a take-over by EFG Harvesting, his success was recognised by a directorship in EFG, which was then followed by the opportunity to lead a management buy-out of the harvesting portion of EFG in 1991. 

With the backing of connections built up through his export activities, Tony was able to secure the funding to set up the company of which he is currently managing director, Euroforest Ltd. Since then, he has led the growth of Euroforest while serving the industry in various positions, including chairman, in the UK Forest Products Association and then Confor. 

“Tony has shown the same drive, the same vision, in pushing the development of Confor as he has with his own businesses”, said Confor chief executive Stuart Goodall. “He has always known that what happens in the dusty corridors of power, far from any growing trees, can have a dramatic effect on those working in the forest industry. Many don't see this unglamorous work on the political front, but they benefit from it nonetheless.” 

The award took place at the inaugural Confor dinner, on 29 February 2012, where forestry minister Stewart Stevenson, reaffirmed the Scottish Government’s commitment to increase new woodland creation to achieve the target of 100,000 hectares over the next ten years. 

The dinner, which will become an annual fixture, was organised by Confor to provide an opportunity for the minister to meet industry representatives. Confor chairman Colin Mann, who opened the evening, stressed the need for increased new planting, including large-scale commercial forests. The minister acknowledged the issue and said how he and the cabinet secretary, Richard Lochhead, both want to see new planting happening to support the industry for the future. 

"The role of the forestry industries is very important to Scotland. Including forest-related tourism, the sector supports over 30,000 jobs and generates £670 million towards the economy each year. The Scottish Government is committed to ensuring the sector continues to flourish and we intend to do this working closely with the forest industries and Confor”, explained the minister.

"Despite difficult trading conditions I am pleased to see the industry thrive. The move to a low carbon economy will open up new opportunities in the construction sector and for renewable heat and I'm confident we can continue to add value to our growing timber resource, providing Scotland with a competitive edge."