Top 10 reasons to remain optimistic about our industry

MFPC President Jim Contino’s address to members at 2017 Awards Banquet

Top Ten List on Why to Remain Optimistic about the Future of our Forest Products Industry here in Maine:

  1. Regardless of our temporary market contractions, the trees in our factory remain in full production and continue to produce a high quality product. We don’t need to worry about warehouse space or capital costs for holding excess inventory – mother nature has taken care of all this for us without cost. I consider it a loan guarantee from God.
  2. The history of using trees in North America is full of starts and stops. We just happen to be in the middle of one. Every bit of market contraction that we experience represents an opportunity to be exploited in the future. The more we accumulate growing stock inventory, the larger the opportunity for new investment becomes. This is simply the way a free market economy works. I would not want it any other way.
  3. As Eric Kingsley points out in just about every presentation I have seen him give, “Maine is uniquely positioned to use trees for economic good.” There is hardly another place on the globe of where so many people (with money) live on the fringe of a sustainable forest with extra products to harvest. Investment in new consumption here in Maine is not a matter of if – it is only a question of when. I bet my reputation on it.
  4. Even if we drag our feet with new consumption investment, Europe and Asia economies remain short on fiber and are well aware of our underutilized deep water ports. Exports represent a viable bridge to market contractions and many people are eyeing this opportunity as fiber costs decline.
  5. Maine is truly a special place because it is 85 percent forested and 94 percent privately owned. Projects and deals can happen much faster here in Maine because of this compared to most other place in the world.
  6. Much of the working forest is still owned by large landowners. Developers can actually meet with a half dozen individuals to line up the majority of their fiber supply for most new projects in a matter of a few days. This ability to baseload the required fiber commitments are truly unique. In many ways it is superior to the crown allocations that we compete against in Canada. Just ask Charlotte Mace if you don’t believe me.
  7. Don’t give up yet on the mills that are still running. Most are still working hard to reinvent themselves and to retool to make new products. I know for a fact that many mills are scoping new investment in tissue and packaging, which are the growth sectors of our economy today. It’s hard work to raise the capital in this economy so give them a chance.
  8. Loggers are a resilient group. Sure they got smaller because they had to but most are still in business with the capability to grow quickly if and when markets rebound. Many are diversifying as any smart businessman would, but the point is they are still here.
  9. You heard much about the Roadmap project earlier today. We have lots of good people working hard to make plans to advertise everything I am saying to prospective investors and projects. Every aspect of our forest economy is having strategy discussions because of this project:

    • Wood inventory and wood availability.
    • Transportation
    • Technology
    • Markets
    • Research
    • Energy and Biomass strategy

  10.   Take stock on the weather extremes – people are going to move to Maine – you just wait! We like Colorado but where is the water going to come from? We like the western mountains, but they are all on fire! We already lived in the south and Nancy told me I was welcomed to move back there with my second wife! Given the choices, I suspect we will retire right here in Maine.

The future role of MFPC is more important than ever, but it pretty much remains unchanged:

                        • To influence state policy
                        • To be a voice in Augusta to the governor, House, and Senate.
                        • Advise our Federal delegations on national issues of importance
                        • To provide leadership and coordination of the road map work
                        • To preserve the peace between members with competing interests (ha ha…). To define the common ground that we can work on together.

Our mission is still valid and important. We might not change the eventual outcome of how our industry reinvents itself but I bet we absolutely will influence the timetable by which it occurs. My challenge to you is to lend your voice and talents to help do this important work.

Recognition: In closing I don’t want to miss the opportunity given to me to recognize some important contributions this past year from my perspective:

  1. Patrick – for a difficult session. More divisive that what we anticipated.
  2. Sue and Roberta – For tireless meeting preparation. Lucky to have them.
  3. To Mark Doty and Terry Walters – for many years of service on our Executive Committee. Best wishes to them as they begin their retirements.