Teamwork: A Southwide Perspective
- $251 billion of total economic output
- More than 1.1 million jobs
- $53.9 billion in labor income
- $14 billion in export value
- 209 million acres of timberlands
- Over five million private forest landowners
- 57% of the timber harvest volume in the US
That is the forest products industry in the Southern U.S. Pretty impressive statistics, to say the least. It is easy to see why the region is commonly referred to as the wood basket of the world. It takes the skill and expertise of many dedicated natural resource professionals to ensure the forest products industry is well-equipped to meet the world’s demand for wood fiber and forest-based manufactured goods. It is an honor to work alongside these outstanding men and women, together, as a team. The support system that exists for our industry often operates independently, but the ability to come together to form a united front is a powerful tool. Just like the teamwork the Tampa Bay Buccaneers demonstrated in Super Bowl LV, the stakeholders in the wood supply value chain must do their part for the wood supply system to function properly. Everyone has a job to do, and each person must do their part to keep the system working efficiently and effectively.
There are many teams that work independently to resolve issues at the company level as well as larger teams that come together to unite for the greater good of the industry. Not surprisingly, a few of our teammates operate somewhat behind the scenes, but their contributions still play a pivotal role in advancing our industry. The Southern Group of State Foresters (SGSF) and Southern Regional Extension Forestry (SREF) are two organizations that immediately come to mind. Their collaboration has led to several successful efforts worthy of praise.
One such product of their collaboration is the forest products locator feature, a great site to learn more about the locations of primary mills and secondary forest products manufacturers in the Southern U.S. This site serves as a helpful tool for economic development officials to assist with new industry recruiting efforts as well as to aid potential industry investors in their site selection process. It can also help forest landowners learn more about their local markets and better understand how a timber harvest will produce multiple products destined for different manufacturing facilities. Many people not affiliated with the forest products supply chain fail to understand the role that a proper hierarchy of goods plays in the overall balance of our wood supply system.
Another great product resulting from this successful collaboration of SGSF and SREF is the forestry impacts website. This is a fantastic repository for socioeconomic information at the regional and state-wide levels. The site even contains links that lead to economic contribution reports at the county level for certain states. These economic contribution reports have proven very successful for engagement with state forestry associations, academic institutions, government agencies, economic development offices, and interaction with state legislative officials. Documenting and showcasing the overall economic contribution of the forest products industry and wood supply system on local and regional economies is important. Our industry, and the associated supply chain, is one of the largest manufacturing sectors in much of the Southern Region. This economic activity often impacts some of the most economically distressed regions where career options are often limited at best. Everyone acknowledges the importance of money and jobs. Most importantly, it captivates the interest of decision-makers at all levels of government.
The benefits that forests provide for society are large in number and immense in scale. Sustainable management of our natural resources is in everyone’s best interest. The positive correlation between healthy markets and healthy forests is no secret. Everybody on our team is aware of this fact. But a large sector of the public does not make this connection. We have room to expand our team and recruit new stakeholders. There will certainly be challenges ahead of us in the future. But challenges can lead to opportunities. And we have got a great team in place to capitalize on opportunities. Let us all do our part to be a positive contributor to a team environment and embrace those opportunities to promote our industry and profession. We have a great story to share. Let us make sure we are heard loud and clear. And I am excited to work with my new team, the FRA team, on doing my part!