It’s a welcomed event to see the industry you grew up in suddenly recover from an economic nose dive, level off, and start to climb. That feeling abounds in NC for the loggers and forest landowners that support the state’s number one manufacturing sector. Hidden from most observers is the wide based supply chain that brings raw forest materials to market. Our loggers and truckers work hard each day leaving in the dark of morning and returning after most others have been home. It’s the unobtrusive nature of those endeavors that brings the product out of the woods and down our rural highways mostly outside of public view.
Our professional loggers have weathered the proverbial storm and are now staged in what could be a sharp recovery. Those who downsized to preserve their livelihood and traditions can most certainly upsize and take advantage of recovering and new markets. Lumber deliveries, pre-fabricated trusses, and support businesses typified as concrete pourers/finishers and landscape crews travelling our roads signal a building recovery is at hand. Couple that with new biomass markets provided by the wood pellet manufactures in northeast NC and southeast VA and there are smiles all around.
NC is geographically optimized to take advantage. Situated mid-point on the eastern US urban population crescent and served by the interstate highway system, it minimizes transportation costs for finished building products. Let’s also not forget NC’s colonial history being the shortest travel point for European settlers. That feature alone ensures the lowest transportation cost for wood pellets to Europe. Add a steady export demand for MDF grade wood chips to Turkey, grade hardwood exports to Europe, and increasing demand for pine logs to China, and the optimism grows.
Our two deep water ports at Wilmington and Morehead City are currently being reviewed for new wood pellet handling facilities and break bulk log opportunities. These last measures are what investors, pellet manufactures, and log exporters have waited for. More attention is also being given to freight handling systems that link our woods to highways, rail, and the ports. For the first time we are hearing USDOT administrators in DC discussing critical rural freight routes. Bottom line it could mean our Piedmont and Western NC forest resources that lack competitive markets will benefit.
Forest markets in these areas will increase when locally positioned mills can see their finished products reach export markets by a more cost efficient system. All this bodes well for our supply side and the numerous support businesses dealing in logging equipment, fuel, insurance, repairs, and the like. Our logging association is often asked what we do. Near the top of the list has to be the role of economic development. Ongoing efforts to assist existing and new raw forest product markets spill downward through the supply chain. One critical element to logging business growth is the shortage of trained logging equipment operators. Our association met this challenge and has established a training school that generates safe and productive operators to allow businesses to expand.
All in all, optimism abounds and efforts to bring all the elements and players together could not be more important to our professional logging businesses. For more information about NC Association of Professional Loggers please click here.