Last week, FRA President Deb Hawkinson and I traveled to Green Bay, WI to participate in several important events in the Lake States Region. We also visited FRA member Ahlstrom-Munksjo at their mill located in Kaukauna, WI.
Traveling into Green Bay was no treat, as an unseasonal winter storm targeted the Midwest. The snow and ice, however, did not deter participation at both the Great Lakes Timber Professionals Association (GLTPA) Board of Directors Meeting, the Logging Business Focus Groups hosted by FRA, and an event hosted by Congressman Mike Gallagher (R-WI-08) on the Safe Routes Act of 2019.
GLTPA Board of Directors Meeting
Hawkinson provided a briefing to the GLTPA board of directors during their business meeting, outlining how FRA operates at the regional and national level, and the policy issues FRA is focusing on during the 116th Congress. Time was allowed for discussion with board members on issues of importance to the forest products industry. Two key issues emerged from this discussion: transportation and logging workforce.
The industry continues to struggle to find enough drivers to move products from the woods to the mill. The lack of drivers has led to idled trucks and logging equipment. Other concerns about transportation include higher insurance costs. Hawkinson responded that FRA has been active in promoting legislation such as the Drive Safe Act, which would increase the number of drivers in the transportation sector through the development of an apprenticeship program that provides additional safety training beyond the CDL for 18-21 year-olds. FRA is also working along with the American Loggers Council to introduce the Safe Routes Act of 2019, and continues to work with Team Safe Trucking in an effort to address safety and increased insurance costs of log trucks.
GLTPA members commented on the viability of the logging sector. In this vibrant economy, it is difficult to attract and retain employees, and logging businesses are losing employees to the manufacturing sector. If the trend continues, it will be difficult for logging businesses to operate at existing capacity. Hawkinson remarked that FRA has addressed some of the issues of retaining or connecting with potential employees in webinars that FRA has hosted, including “Working Across Generations: How to Speak Millennial,” “Log Trucking Workforce,” and “Veterans in Forestry Work.” Webinars are available for members to view on the FRA website, www.forestresources.org
Congressman Gallagher Highlights Safe Routes Act of 2019
Congressman Gallagher hosted an event to discuss the Safe Routes Act of 2019. Hawkinson was one of several speakers at the event, which included representatives from the American Loggers Council, Wisconsin Paper Council, GLTPA, and the WI Department of Transportation. Congressman Gallagher spoke of the safety benefits of the Safe Routes Act to the logging and forest products industry.
FRA’S Deb Hawkinson highlights the importance of the Safe Routes Act to FRA members.
FRA Logging Business Focus Group
FRA hosted a logging business focus group to discuss the issues impacting the logging sector. The meeting was well attended by logging businesses located in both Michigan and Wisconsin. The focus group centered around a recent survey of logging businesses in the Lake States Region, in which participants were asked questions ranging from the top challenges facing the industry to what logging businesses can do to assure success tomorrow. Professor Charlie Blinn of the University of Minnesota facilitated the focus groups and will assist FRA in preparing the report on the focus group results.
Finally, FRA had an opportunity to visit Ahlstrom-Munksjo’s U.S. offices located a short distance from Green Bay in Kaukauna, WI. Addie Teeters, Marketing Communications and Media Relations Manager, and Bud Delano, Wood Procurement Manager, provided us with a comprehensive overview of the company. Bud also drove us through the wood handling facility and discussed some of the challenges and opportunities of the industry. We are thankful to Ahlstrom-Munksjo for the opportunity to visit their site - these member visits are always incredible informative and provide FRA the ability to represent our members better.
Entry area of Ahlstrom-Munksjo’s U.S. Offices located in Kaukauna, WI.