By: Duncan Davies, President & CEO, Interfor
For more than 10 years, Interfor has been systematically acquiring and upgrading mills to position itself as one of the world’s largest lumber providers. Today, we have lumber operations in British Columbia, Washington, Oregon and, most recently, Georgia.
The decision to expand to Georgia was the result of an in-depth review of opportunities in the North American lumber industry. We wanted to identify a location with a strong timber supply and stable and supportive investment climate. Georgia was an excellent fit. in Georgia in 2013. It was a key strategic move. One year later, with six mills in the state and annual production of nearly 900,000 board feet, we are Georgia’s largest single lumber producer.
We believe the future is very bright for the lumber industry. The U.S. housing market is on the path to recovery, and the use of wood is on the rise. Builders, architects and governments worldwide are recognizing that wood is the ultimate building product, not just for its beauty but for its strength, safety and sustainability. Leading architects and builders are looking to wood as the sustainable solution for the future.
Georgia is at the forefront of this movement. Earlier this year, Gov. Nathan Deal signed a bill that allows more wood to be used in public school construction. The governor’s policy builds on a program recently announced by U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, which provides financial support for advanced wood products and applications that will drive demand for wood and eventually lead to wood skyscrapers.
Experts believe there is an opportunity to grow the market for wood products in the United States by an extra 20 percent over and above the expected housing market recovery. That means everyone wins because this leads to more investment, more jobs and stronger communities.
At Interfor, we believe Georgia provides the investment climate necessary to pursue these opportunities while ensuring our long-term success in the state. Georgia has:
- Favorable log supply and productive and sustainable forests. Today, there are 24 million acres of working forests in Georgia, including Southern yellow pine, which complements our already diverse species mix.
- Proximity to the largest lumber market in North America.
- Robust infrastructure, with strong rail and highway networks and two of the most efficient and well-managed ports in the world.
- A strong forest-sector workforce. We have hired more than 800 Georgians and are impressed with their commitment to excellence as well as our core values.
From the moment we arrived in Georgia, local and state governments made it clear: Interfor’s success matters. We were introduced to great programs such as Georgia QuickStart, which helped us set up a training program for 65 new manufacturing positions at our Baxley Mill. Today, Interfor generates significant economic activity in Georgia. We’ve invested $20 million in our mills since they were acquired, and more investment is planned.
This year, we will buy 3.5 million tons of logs worth $140 million from 100 counties across the state. Moreover, we will sell 1.5 million tons of byproducts to other manufacturing facilities to create pulp, paper, biomass and other products. Many of these products, including Interfor lumber, will be shipped to overseas markets through the ports of Brunswick and Savannah.
Later this year, we will open a regional office in Peachtree City to support our Southeast operations.
We are proud of what we have accomplished, and we are proud to be in Georgia. Interfor has a lot to offer this state and its citizens, and Georgia has a lot to offer our company. Together, we have a bright future.