Every now and then, I come across something that sparks a new passion within me for the forest products industry. This happened most recently when I saw the TEDx Talk by Donna Cassese, Sappi North America’s Managing Director of Wood Resource Strategy. Drawing from more than 40 years in the industry, Donna presents a compelling case for why the advanced use of technology and innovation will bring immeasurable opportunities for the future use of wood. You can view her full and dynamic remarks here.
Donna presents the case that our old way of thinking about paper is obsolete. Paper, as many in our industry already know, is innovative and adaptive. There is technology today that can turn paper products into fabric used on everything from handbags to soccer balls and car dashboards. And pulp, she points out, can be used for clothing manufacturing and food thickening.
Sophisticated innovation has brought the paper industry to where it is today, and the possibilities seem endless. I think my favorite takeaway was envisioning the future Donna speaks to, where products could be designed to mimic patterns in nature that inhibit bacteria growth, and replicate that into products used in hospitals. Just think of the improvement in care this would provide.
While this discussion is undoubtedly captivating for those of us in the industry, I couldn’t help but think that this was precisely the kind of story we could use to capture the attention of a new workforce. Our workforce gap continues to be a challenge, and what better way is there to excite young people then enticing them to become part of an innovative, growing forest products industry that works with a renewable, sustainable resource woven into their daily life.
Furthermore, these types of advancements and innovative thinking will only help to grow the industry and create new jobs. When the wood supply chain rises to new levels, there are opportunities for businesses throughout the supply chain to expand their operations.
I am thankful to be a part of a community with FRA that represents the entire wood supply chain from the land, to suppliers and industry consumers. The forest industry is the foundation of rural communities across the country, and each part of the supply chain has played a role in this achievement. My hope is that through both traditional and new, innovative means, the industry not only thrives in 2019 but grows to new levels of success.