INDUSTRY EXPERTS OUTLINE THREATS/OPPORTUNITIES FOR STATE’S FOREST RESOURCE
For Immediate Release
October 29, 2009
(Columbia) Forest industry experts, economists, business people, and land owners contend that the forest industry in South Carolina is poised to benefit substantially as economic conditions turn around. That is especially if certain actions are taken now, the group concluded after a first-of-its-kind conference this week at Harbison State Forest in Columbia.
Nearly fifty professionals including timber producers, foresters, economists, and representatives of natural resource and governmental organizations gathered for the day-long summit aimed at growing forestry’s economic impact in South Carolina from $17 billion to $20 billion per year in by 2015. The goal is being marketed as “20-by-15” by the South Carolina Forestry Commission and the South Carolina Forestry Association, the two organizations which sponsored the event. Participants were divided into breakout groups to asses their individual and collective concerns for South Carolina’s forests which fuel the number-one manufacturing industry in the state.
Through a “SWOT” (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) analysis, the group formulated a list of current aspects of the industry upon which its future will likely depend. They concluded:
- The economic impact of forestry already positions it as a driving force in the state’s economy. Industry should leverage this advantage to recruit more investment in SC.
- South Carolina has an abundant wood supply. More timber is growing now than at any other time in at least the last 100 years. Additionally, South Carolina has the largest volume of desirable pine sawtimber in the Southeast. The group cited this “wall of wood” and a favorable growth/drain ratio as beneficial to sustaining forestry-based employment. Additionally the larger size class of trees dictates developing specific markets and a customer base for wood products which must be made from sawtimber.
- Marketing/Branding. Industry must make greater strides in its efforts to market and brand SC timber-related business, such as has been done with the SC Grown campaign found in the agriculture sector. Participants in the conference regard this as a very important area to pursue to achieve greater public understanding of and appreciation for forestry’s role in the economy.
- Research and development. Opportunities for public/private partnerships abound for finding ways to more efficiently use the forest resource for the good of the state.
- Utilize infrastructure. Our state’s highways, railroads and ports support industry investment geographically and logistically across the state.
- Resource protection. Regarded as a threat, recent cuts to the Forestry Commission’s budget have reduced its capacity to handle more aggressive wildfire seasons. Budgetary emphasis should be placed on SCFC’s role as a protector of the forest resource to encourage outside investment.
Experts predict that ten percent of growth in the industry in South Carolina would translate to 8,000 more jobs and $1.7 billion more in yearly economic impact to the overall economy. Per capita income in the forestry sector stands now at $46,000, compared to the state average of $34,000.
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, summed it up. “There is no more well defined cluster that has a bigger impact on the state’s economy.” Forest industry stakeholders gathered at Harbison State Forest agreed that getting the general public and the business community to realize that is paramount.