By Matt Jensen, ALC President
The 2012 presidential field is starting to materialize even though we are a year and a half away from the election. The economy and job creation are high on the list of priorities. There have been very few presidents in American history that have won re-election when the unemployment rate has been above eight percent.
The current economic reports are showing very little sign of positive growth. President Obama has said publically, many times, that our country needs to invest in the future to help us achieve positive economic growth. What the President means on investment in the future and what I think may be slightly different, but to some degree I agree with that assessment.
Investing in the future doesn’t mean giving out dollars or programs as political favors for the past election and now pre-election. Investment in research and development of broad based alternative energy uses like biomass, biodiesel, etc., along with current energy like natural gas and oil by private business would benefit the U.S. economically. Until our government officials realize that increasing energy production domestically and in all areas that are efficient without long term subsidies, we will continue to have large fluctuations in energy prices.
It seems more evident in recent years that whenever the U.S. economy is starting to show positive growth that can be erased easily by OPEC and others who set oil production levels and prices. Do you think they have our number? I don’t think giving billions of dollars a year to some of these countries in hopes that they will like us is the answer. I can’t help but think they are laughing all the way to the bank.
Speaking of investment in the future, I am sure many loggers across the country have been to an open house at one of the paper mills or sawmills that they supply. Generally the event is a time for fellow logging contractors to socialize with each other, the wood procurement personnell, and the mill management. The mill managers will usually give a report on how the facility is doing financially, the coming year’s production and possibly the capital investments they will make to improve their bottom line. As a logging contractor and a capitalist, I want the facilities where we deliver fiber to be profitable and financially strong.
I don’t want to assume what the management people are thinking, but I wonder if they have noticed some of the trends in the logging industry? The average age of a logging contractor according to recent surveys is around fifty years old. Many logging contractors have a less than positive outlook on their future in the business. There are a low percentage of contractors who would consider expanding their business.
I know we are in a supply and demand economy, but a contract in the logging industry, in most cases, isn’t worth the paper it is written on because the contract can be changed with just a phone call from a wood procurement person. Many of you may have seen the show “Swamp Loggers” on the History Channel. In my opinion, the popularity of the show has risen because most loggers can identify with the volatility and the day to day challenges of being a professional logging contractor. Secondly, the general public can’t believe what Bobby Goodson’s company goes through just to make a living. When the mill procurement person makes the call to tell Bobby they don’t want any more wood for the week or that they want a certain species other than what their current job has, it makes me wonder what would happen if the tables were turned. I wonder if someone from the mill facility were suddenly told they weren’t going to get paid that week or their pay was going to be reduced unexpectedly even though their work was performed, how they would react? What if it happened to them several times throughout the year?
My hope is that our industry considers the idea of investing in its loggers. Automatic fuel adjustments and rewarding companies that perform at a higher level like being a Certified Master Logger would be an appreciated investment. I know some wood using facilities work for the betterment of the industry, but I would hope the pulp, paper and lumber companies will all join the American Loggers Council when it comes to improving the future of its logging force and supporting environmental policies that support sustainability.
Consistency in production quotas and pricing are two major factors that logging companies need to achieve stable, dependable and profitable businesses. After all, I have heard many times that we are all in this together.
Matt Jensen is the President of the American Loggers Council, which represents over 50,000 logging professionals in 30 states. Matt’s operation, Whitetail Logging, is headquartered in Crandon, Wisconsin. For more information please contact the American Loggers Council office at 409-625-0206 or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.