by Randy Weckman
Who says money doesn't grow in trees? Not Kentucky 's 400,000 private woodland owners. They're sitting on top of 11.2 million acres of forest land44% of the state's land area and those trees are big business.
At $4 BILLION per year, the forestry industry is one of Kentucky 's leading enterprises, even though most Kentuckians aren't quite aware of its impact on the economyperhaps because the industry is made up of many rural mills and factories. Large factories are few and far between. Mostly, if they think about it, Kentuckians view logging as an environmental threat. But they shouldn't.
Logging, money and protecting the environment are three concepts
that are quite compatible, according to Jeff Stringer, Extension forester
with the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture.
Stringer said that most people think the act of harvesting a tree
itself is an environmental threat. Not so. The environmental damage,
which can include serious erosion and fouling of the water supply,
comes from harvesting the forest improperly.
“The Master Logger program teaches loggers how to bring a tree out
of the woods while minimizing damage to the environment,” Stringer
said. He directs the Kentucky Master Logger program, which has trained
2,250 loggers since 1993.
During the three-day intensive Master Logger Certification program,
Stringer and Extension specialist Matt Smidt teach loggers to use
best management practices, or BMPs, to bring hardwood timber out of
the forest. In addition, loggers learn about safety in the forest,
forest ecology and management, and how to stay in compliance with
federal and state laws, Stringer said.
1999 Kentucky Timber Production
Each year, graduates of the Kentucky Master Logger program work on
about 168,000 acres of forest land and harvest more than 465 million
board feet of standing timber. Since the program's inception, Kentucky
Master Loggers have logged more than half a million acres of forest
land and harvested 1.6 billion board feet of standing timber worth
more than $203 million to landowners, Stringer said.
The Master Logger program has been so successful in teaching proper
logging techniques that it was incorporated into a law that will require
at least one Master Logger on-site and in charge of each timber harvest
in Kentucky beginning in July 2000.
Currently, the Kentucky Master Logger program is a cooperative partnership
between the Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service, the Kentucky Division
of Forestry, and the Kentucky Forest Industry Association. It is funded
by a $50 registration fee, with additional funding from the Kentucky
Division of Water's 319h Nonpoint Source Program and the American
Forest and Paper Association's Sustainable Forestry Initiative.
Passed by the Kentucky General Assembly and signed by Governor Paul
Patton, the Forest Conservation Act will help the logging industry
maintain the forest ecosystem as a sustainable commodity, Stringer
Stringer sees a great potential for sustained economic development
through forestry in Kentucky . The current $4 billion industry continues
to grow, with a number of processing facilities in the state providing
added value to Kentucky 's raw timber. Kentucky ranks second in hardwood
lumber production only to Pennsylvania , and historically has been
among the top five producers. Some 35,000 Kentuckians are employed
in the forest products industry, including loggers, processors, and
Thousands more are employed in the secondary wood industry.
“The phenomenal growth of the secondary wood industry will compel
us to manage our forests for sustainable production,” Stringer said.
Take the R.M. Bastin, Inc. Lumber Company near Eubank , Kentucky , for example. It processes logs into rough lumber and sells the lumber either green or kiln dried. As a primary manufacturer, the Bastin Company sells about 70 percent of its products which amounts to about 12 million board feet of lumber each year to out-of-state secondary manufacturers, according to Russell Bastin, owner of the company.
Secondary manufacturers, primarily in Indiana , Ohio , and Tennessee
, take the lumber produced at Bastin and make doors, trim, cabinets,
and hardwood flooring, Bastin said.
The Bastin Company is a large employer for the tiny town of Eubank (350 population), with 60 full-time employees at the plant. In addition to the full-time employees, the lumber company fuels the local economy through its purchases of logs from 40 to 50 logging concerns, most of which employ three to four persons. Another 150 loggers occasionally sell logs to Bastin. Most of the loggers who come through Bastin's gates are from within a 60-mile radius of Eubank.
The economic impact of the forest industry could be considerably
greater, according to Bastin.
“We may have reached saturation with the number of small sawmills
in operation. In fact, in the next few years, I see many of the smaller
ones being consolidated into larger sawmills. But the real potential
growth in the industry will be in secondary manufacturing,” he said.
“With about 70 percent of our company's product being shipped out
of state for further processing, it's clear that the forest industry
could invigorate many more local economies if we had more secondary
processing here in the state,” he said.
Bob Bauer, director of Kentucky Forest Industries Association, echoed
Bastin's perspective on the future of the industry. “We've always
had a pretty strong primary industry in the state. Now, the secondary
industry is where the growth is. There's room for much more development.”
Bauer noted that the industry has changed significantly in the last
decade, with adoption of sawmill technology adding efficiency and
value to sawmill operations.
“What's happened with a lot of mills is that they continue to improve
efficiency and they find they need to do something to increase the
value of their product. The trend in the last 15 years is to add dry
kilns. It was unheard of for mills to have kilns 20 years ago. The
majority of larger mills now have kilns,” he said.
Bauer believes that a new trend is developing to add even more value
to the sawmills' products.
“The most recent trend is for mills to use the kiln-dried lumber
for making component parts for cabinets and furniture. And some have
started making flooring from the dry lumber. It's all part of the
expansion of the sawmill industry into the secondary industry of wood
products. This expansion means that we will need to manage our forests
even more prudently,” he said. “We also will need to develop the labor
force's technological abilities to operate the new sophisticated equipment.”
Wayne Lumber Company in Monticello also shows the remarkable growth
of the secondary industry. In the last decade, Wayne Lumber Company
has developed from a small local sawmill to a three-division business.
Since 1989, Wayne Lumber Company has added a drying kiln and veneering
business (Wayne Dry Kilns) and a furniture parts manufacturing operation
(WW Hardwoods). The three businesses now employ about 210 people from
the Monticello vicinity.
“We've worked for many years with the faculty at the UK Department
of Forestry to help us improve our operations, from helping us learn
to use the prism method of cruising timber, to minimizing environmental
damage through the Master Logger program, to training employees in
technology at the Robinson Station at Quicksand,” said Alan Richardson
of Wayne Lumber.
Hazard's Trus Joist also illustrates how efficiently Kentucky 's
forests are put to use today. Trus Joist manufactures building materials— including
2 x 4s, header blocks for windows and door openings, and I-beams— using
low grade yellow poplar, sycamore, red maple, and cucumbertree logs.
The plant employs about 350 people at the factory which was built
in Perry County in 1995.
Grant Curry, a sustained yield forester with the company, said that
he works closely with University of Kentucky foresters in advising
large landowners in managing their forest resources for the future.
“My program involves helping landowners develop and implement forest
management plans to improve their future growth rates and stand quality.
I also work with reforesting strip-mined lands in Eastern Kentucky
. UK 's foresters have been very helpful to my program,” he said.
Bobby Ammerman, Extension associate in secondary forest industry
at UK 's Robinson Station in Quicksand, said that the potential for
growth in the secondary manufacturing industry is great but highly
competitive for new, start-up businesses. New-start manufacturers
compete with long-established businesses in North Carolina and Indiana
, which can be tough, but not impossible.
“Entrepreneurs sometimes need highly individualized help, from learning
about new technologies of manufacturing to learning the operation
of new machinery to learning how to maintain safety in the workplace,” he
said. During the last year, Ammerman has held 10 training sessions
on how to set up and maintain equipment for making molding, and has
just completed safety training for forklift operators so small manufacturers
can be in compliance with OSHA regulations. He's also worked with
a Kentucky manufacturer of “whole house” stereo systems who needed
help in manufacturing stereo speaker cabinets when the company decided
to scale up their design to use wood instead of plastic.
“Helping people find solutions to highly individualized problems
is something that we do well,” Ammerman said.
Central to the expansion of the secondary wood products industry
is the Kentucky Wood Products Competitive Corporation, a quasi-governmental
organization established in 1994 that already has been instrumental
in developing an infrastructure necessary for growth in the industry,
according to Mark Kaser, executive director of KWPCC.
The KWPCC helps secondary wood products businesses become more efficient,
links buyers with sellers, and sponsors education for the industry
including scholarships for forestry students.
Kaser sees the secondary wood industry mushrooming in Kentucky .
“Right now, the average growth for secondary wood products industries
in Kentucky is about 30 percent per year. Some have recorded a 400
percent growth just last year,” he said.
Many out-of-state companies view Kentucky as an attractive location
because of its excellent timber resource base and labor availability,
he said. With such a large potential for growth, according to Kaser, “we
have to continue to improve the availability and quality of logs to
feed this emerging industry.”
“The wood industry will rely even more heavily on UK 's foresters
to help us develop our timber resources into a sustainable, high quality
product,” Kaser said.
Top U.S. Hardwood Producing States:
4. North Carolina
6. West Virginia