Time is needed for markets to return to pre-COVID levels

Ripogenus Dam, Maine An Encyclopedia. 

I took a ride up to Ripogenus Dam this weekend with my wife and son just to get away from the farm. My wife has been teaching eighth graders remotely and my son has been finishing his junior year at Yale sitting on our front porch with his laptop. It was time to visit Chesuncook Lake and imagine the log drives and reflect on a time when the mission to “wood the mills” and safely navigate the rushing waters kept everyone focused on their “exhilarating” adventure.

I was reminded that not everything has changed. Our industry is still made up of hard-working folks who are eager to be productive and uneasy if the next “chance” of wood has not been laid out.

You all cut a lot of wood last winter and it is stacked in all corners of Maine. Between pulp digester “ruptures,” retrofits and increasing sawmill capacity, wood markets are reconfiguring across the state. It will take time for the market to adjust and orders to get the pre-COVID levels.

I’ve been talking to members about their ideas for economic recovery and compiling a list of suggestions. Taking care of existing businesses has been the priority, and state and federal agencies and representatives are seeking advice. Steve Schley, a longtime-MFPC Board member and current chair of the FOR/Maine Executive Committee, was recently appointed by Gov. Janet Mills to participate in the Economic Recovery Committee. This will be a good venue for sharing recommendations for both the short-term recovery and long-term strategic focus.  

We’re also moving ahead with the FOR/Maine initiative to conduct a global search for manufacturers that could fit into our wood basket. Indufor, our consultant, has initiated the project and will be reporting opportunities to us throughout the year. Global markets are shifting and in this new world economy it might make sense to relocate an established manufacturing business to Maine or commercialize an emerging technology on the strength of our forest resources.  

So while we are headlining some positive industry news, it doesn’t mean we don’t understand the gravity of the situation or the challenges that are ahead for many of you. There was plenty of momentum moving this industry ahead prior to the coronavirus and we’ll work hard to get back to that place.

Please keep in touch and let us know how we can be of service to you and your businesses.