Seeing the signs


It’s impossible to predict, but there are signs that the timber industry is at the beginning of an upsurge after taking a hit during the economic downturn.

The Portland Business Journal recently wrote about new projections released by the Western Wood Products Association. Demand for lumber in the U.S. is expected to go up by 6 percent this year, bringing to an end two straight years of declines of more than 20 percent, according to the story.

And there is more reason to be optimistic:

The Portland-based trade group said demand this year will grow to 32.9 billion board feet in 2010, growing another 9.7 percent in 2011 to 36.1 billion board feet. Meanwhile, production at Western mills is expected to rise 7.1 percent to 11 billion board feet this year, growing again in 2011 to 11.8 billion board feet.

Meanwhile, the Capital Press over the weekend told the story of a planer mill in Winlock, Wash., that has survived the recession by not drawing any money from the company and because “we’re too stubborn to quit.”

The story also quoted from Marple’s Northwest Business Letter, a publication of Random Lengths, a wood products reporting service in Eugene.

Unlike some of the region’s younger industries, unless someone figures out a way to move a forest, the timber and wood products jobs aren’t easily transferred across the country or overseas. Once this industry rebounds, it will help lift the region and signal that the nation’s economic health is on its way to recovery.”

According to the Vancouver Sun, the Canadian timber industry may almost be there. The Sun wrote about a study from the Forest Products Association of Canada that said the industry can reach new heights by focusing on the bioenergy sector.

Here is what the leader of the study, Don Roberts, a senior research analyst at CIBC World Markets, had to say in the story:

He said it could be as simple as a sawmill partnering with a producer of pyrolysis oil, an oil derived from wood waste and bark, that can be used as a fuel, a source of bio-chemicals or other products, including food additives.

Or it could be a pulp mill adding a bio-refinery to its existing product line.

Are these all signs of things to come?