Message from MFPC’s new president Jim Contino

Remarks delivered at MFPC annual meeting banquet, Sept. 19, 2016

MFPC President Jim Contino of Verso
MFPC President Jim Contino, fiber supply  manager, Verso Paper.

I am quite proud to accept the role of president of MFPC and am looking forward to becoming much more involved in Council business over the next two years. This is something I have looked forward to for some time now.

My first introduction to MFPC was back in the 1980s by my old boss and mentor – Bob Cope. I can’t remember the exact function but do remember that he called me directly and invited to a meeting and dinner, saying it would be a great opportunity to learn about legislative affairs and to meet leaders within our industry. It was everything he said and after dinner we went to the bar for a few drinks. I then learned why he invited me when he pointer the server in my direction with a big grin on his face. She presented me with a rather large bar bill and the joke was on me as the low guy on the totem pole.

Some of you might not think that a guy from a recently bankrupt paper company is necessarily the best person to serve as president. Let me tell you why you might be wrong.

The first 10 years of my career were in the land management end of our business. I developed a great attachment to the land and got to work with some great service contract loggers. The next 10 years I was in the lumber and plywood business and developed a first-hand appreciation of how hard it is to actually turn round logs into rectangular building products. The most recent 15 years have been in wood procurement for a number of different pulp mills. Here I learned about the supply chain that knits us together into an integrated industry. It is really this supply chain that defines the common ground for the Maine Forest Products Council:

  • Landowners grow the trees and make the stumpage available
  • Loggers produce and deliver the raw materials to mills
  • Pulp mills consume and convert the wood to paper.
  • Sawmills capture the grade value and sell their byproducts back into the market
  • Biomass mills make renewable energy from the underutilized products.

Despite the industry ownership being much less integrated than when I first started my career, our supply chain remains tremendously interdependent. My current job puts me right in the middle of commerce with loggers, landowners, and mills. This is why I just might be a good choice to help lead MFPC.  MFPC is important to me because it creates the opportunity for these different parties to interact with each other, even if they are not doing direct business together. This interaction creates the common ground for our industry.

Allow me to read to you some excerpts from the MFPC bylaws about our purpose:

  1. To promote the general welfare of our members
  2. To promote the conservation and renewal of our forest resources
  3. To improve our forest practices and forest utilization
  4. To collect and disseminate pertinent information about our industry to the government and public.

I am proud to be a part of an association with a purpose like this.  This is important work to continue.

And these are excerpts from our strategic mission:

  1. To become the recognized spokesperson for our industry and to speak on behalf of our membership with a unified voice.
  2. To grow and enjoy grassroots participation from our membership.
  3. To provide credible advice to Government about policy implications to our industry.
  4. To balance the wise use and conservation of our forest resources.

This mission describes exactly why we remain members of MFPC. I think we already accomplish this mission but need to work at it every day.

I chose forestry as my profession for a number of different reasons:

  1. I got to wear jeans on most days and hardly ever a jacket and tie.
  2. People are hard-working and transparent – I can count on one hand the number of times someone burned me during a negotiation.
  3. Every day is different – it’s never boring and seldom a grind.
  4. But mostly because I figured out that in this industry, we get to “have our cake and eat it too.” In my view, foresters are the original environmentalists. We get nature, wildlife, clean water, recreation, carbon sequestration plus jobs and economic benefits all at the same time!  It is a wonderful profession in a truly sustainable industry.  It is worth fighting for and I have great faith that we will sustain it despite the restructuring that is currently taking place.

I guess my only unfinished business is to find some youngster with a credit card to pick up my bar tab.  Are there any volunteers out there?

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