As we enter 2021, with COVID-19 vaccines now being produced and distributed worldwide, there is hope that an end to the pandemic is in sight. The pandemic has affected our industry with a reduction in economic activity throughout the world. Our industry has also been negatively affected by pulp mill closures in Wisconsin and Minnesota, which has resulted in an oversupply of pulpwood to both Verso mills in Quinnesec and Escanaba. However, the wood products industry remains stable in Michigan, with much opportunity for growth.
The development of new wood products and uses is vital to keeping our industry moving forward. This has been ongoing with buildings constructed with laminated wood beams, and wood fiber materials used in the production of telephone poles, pallets, furniture, containers and so forth. The wood bio-industry is also important with the usage of wood products to produce electricity from bioenergy facilities and the possible future production of bio-ethanol to be added to gasoline and airplane fuels, and in the development of pharmaceutical products. If we can continue to be innovative with new products from wood, Michigan can grow this industry substantially in the future.
There are many other ways we can work together to help grow our wood products industry. Stay informed on what is going on in your community with future construction and job growth. Attend public meetings that may increase the use of wood within your region. Contact your local, state, and national representatives to encourage them to increase wood product development projects within our state. This could include recommending that public buildings, bridges, and recreational sites be constructed from laminated wood beams and other wood products.
Additional research and design of wood products can be developed at colleges and universities in our state. This needs to be encouraged and expanded upon. Research is needed to produce new products, but research alone isn’t enough—we must also continue to develop these products into a manufacturing phase, which will promote job growth.
Working together as representatives of our industry, we can promote wood product industries and facilities. The forests of Michigan, which produce this renewable resource, will be around for generations to come.
GLEN TOLKSDORF, FORESTER/BROKER/APPRAISER, MAT BOARD MEMBER