FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 30, 2009
INDUSTRY EXPERTS IDENTIFY THREATS/OPPORTUNITIES FOR STATE’S FOREST RESOURCE(Columbia,SC)–-Forest industry experts, economists, and landowners confirm the forest industry and its job production in South Carolina have big potential for expansion as economic conditions improve. This is especially true if aggressive actions are taken now to seize the moment, the group concluded after a first-of-its-kind conference this week at the SC Forestry Commission’s Harbison State Forest in Columbia.
Nearly fifty professionals including forest industry representatives, economists, natural resource experts, economic development leaders, governmental organizations, and legislative staff members gathered for the day-long conference. The session was aimed at growing forestry’s economic impact in South Carolina from $17 billion to $20 billion per year by 2015 and beyond the 80,000+ jobs currently provided. Experts noted that a 5% increase in forest industry in SC would translate to an additional 4,000 jobs. Participants noted that the forestry manufacturing segment was already number one in SC with regard to number of jobs and total wages paid. The campaign is called “20x15” by the South Carolina Forestry Commission and the South Carolina Forestry Association, the sponsors of the Wednesday’s conference. Twenty-by-fifteen is coordinated with the “50x20” project underway by the Palmetto Agribusiness Council, representing a potential $50 billion economic impact by 2020. This is a joint effort between forestry and agriculture.
Through a “SWOT” (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) analysis, the group created the following list of factors that most needed attention to recover from the recession and grow the industry beyond its current size. Findings include:
- The economic impact of forestry already positions it as a driving force in the state’s economy. The industry should leverage this advantage by keeping current businesses healthy to recruit more forestry investment to SC.
- South Carolina has an abundant wood supply. More timber is growing now than has ever been recorded. The group cited this oncoming “wall of wood” and a positive growth-to-harvest ratio as beneficial to sustaining and expanding forestry-based businesses and employment. Value-added solid wood products are growth areas in particular.
- Marketing/Branding. Forest industry and the Forestry Commission must begin to aggressively market and brand SC timber-related businesses, as has been done with success in the agriculture sector with the SC Grown campaign. Participants in the conference identified modern marketing techniques as being critical to achieving greater public understanding of and appreciation for forestry’s role in the economy, maintaining current forestry businesses, and attracting new business investment.
- Research and development. Forestry R&D capacity has been greatly reduced and is entirely inadequate to enhance current products and create new ones. Forest management research is also at all time lows and must increase to capture the timber production opportunities that exist. Opportunities for public/private partnerships abound for finding ways to more efficiently use the forest resource for the good of the state.
- Infrastructure. Our state’s highways, railroads and ports are well located and support industry investment geographically and logistically, but need upgrades in many locations. Our ports need to expand their capacity for break bulk cargo. Statewide, rural roads and bridges generally are in need of upgrade for all types of commercial transportation.
- Resource protection. Recent major cuts to the Forestry Commission’s state funding has greatly reduced its capacity for emergency response to wildfires and its ability to protect lives, property, and the forest resource. Budgetary emphasis will have to be placed on the Forestry Commission’s role as a protector of the public and the forest resource to attract capital investment and job growth.
In summary, Dr. Doug Woodward, Director of the Division of Research and Professor of Economics at USC’s Moore School of Business and a participant in Wednesday’s conference said, “There is no more well-defined cluster (than forest industry) that has a bigger impact on the state’s economy.” Obviously, retaining and growing our forest industry is critical to the economic and environmental health of our state, and conference attendees and others are preparing a plan to try to ensure that this happens.
For more information, contact Scott Hawkins at the South Carolina Forestry Commission at (803) 896-8820
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.