FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 2, 2010
FORESTRY JOBS INITIATIVE GAINS TRACTION
(Columbia, SC) The second in a series of forest resource development conferences drew solid attendance from government, industry, and private individuals who share the goal of maximizing forestry’s impact on the SC economy through a public/private partnership.
The SC Forestry Commission, a state agency, and the SC Forestry Association, a private organization made up of industry leaders and landowners, are partnering to move forestry’s economic impact from $17 billion to $20 billion by the year 2015. The “20/15” project has attracted the attention of lawmakers and economists alike. The latest successful conference hosted by the SC Department of Commerce (in the agency’s Main St. Presentation Center) shows 20/15 is gaining support among some of the state’s most influential leaders, particularly those from just across the street at the State House.
Secretary of Commerce Joe Taylor and Mike Shealey, the Senate Finance Committee Budget Director, spoke to the attendees and delivered a message from Sen. Hugh Leatherman, the Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. Shealey, Sen. Leatherman, and Sec. Taylor give high praise to the 20/15 goal noting that the current economic climate makes such focused aggressive measures even more critical for restoring manufacturing jobs.
“Increasing forestry’s annual economic impact to $20 billion would also create about 12,000 additional well paying jobs for South Carolinians,” said State Forester Gene Kodama in summation.
"The 20/15 effort is an economic development roadmap to drive SC's forest industry toward global competitiveness though clustering, more commonly known as the wood supply chain. The forestry sector is not only the oldest cluster, but today the largest in the state,” said SC Forestry Association President Bob Scott.
Industry experts participating are now divided into task forces to address each of the six actions, or “planks”, determined during the first conference as the key issues needing to be addressed in order to meet the 20/15 goal:
Retaining and strengthening forest industry
- Fully utilizing record high levels of timber volume in the state
- Conducting R&D in forest management and forest products
- Addressing infrastructure needs in SC for transport/handling forest products
- Promoting SC forest products and business opportunities
- Better protecting the forest resource and business investments
These taskforces will issue an interim report in August and a final report during the SC Forestry Association’s Annual Meeting in November.
State Forester Kodama also noted that the Forestry Commission’s staffing and resources are diminished now after dramatic state budget cuts of 45% over the past two years resulting in downsizing by about 100 people during the period. Forty employees out of those 100 lost were released on June 30th, the last day of the fiscal year, to be able to keep a balanced budget in the new year. The agency’s mission to both protect and develop the state’s forest resource is becoming harder to accomplish with such harsh cuts, hence the necessity of creating public/private partnerships like 20/15 to continue developing the forest resource. A successful 20/15 Project will help the state and the Commission more quickly recover from the recession and jump start renewed state job and economic growth.
Regarding protection of the forests, property, and lives, the state is at very high risk and the stakes are mounting due to aging equipment and reduced numbers of firefighters.
Kodama warned again, “The severe reduction in wildfire protection capacity, increases in forest fuels, and growing numbers of homes in forested settings are setting the state up for a disastrous situation when the mild, wet wildfire conditions we have experienced recently come to an end and return to average or worse.”
Protecting the forests and the public while developing forestland and creating economic opportunities is a two-pronged, yet practical goal. “We must do both to create the balanced supply and demand ratio needed to maintain a healthy forest industry,” Kodama said.
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For more information, contact Scott Hawkins in the SCFC Public Information Office at (803) 360-2231.
The SC Forestry Commission’s mission is to protect and develop South Carolina’s forest resource
For every $1.00 invested by SC in the Commission, the industry produces more than $1,300.00 of economic impact.