The Real Deal Miami

Strong timber market lifts Florida pine industry

Austrian company invests $130 million to open a new timber mill in Suwanee County

September 12, 2015 10:00AM

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Florida pine sells for $25 a ton, up from $21 in 2011.

Florida pine sells for $25 a ton, up from $21 in 2011.

The worldwide market for timber has surged, and the Florida pine tree industry in the state’s northern region  is benefiting.

Florida pine prices peaked at $40 per ton around 2005, before the housing market crumbled and the 2007-2009 economic recession ensued, according to Timber Mart-South, a nonprofit group in Georgia that monitors the timber industry.

Timber-Mart South reports that Florida pine prices bottomed at $21 per ton in 2011 but have risen to about $25 per ton and appear to be headed higher.

The U.S. arm of Austrian timber company Klausner Group recently spent $130 million to open a new timber mill in Suwanee County, which ships pine boards to Europe, Asia, South America and elsewhere. The company employs 300 workers and plans to hire 50 more.

“What you have here is an ideal location where the trees grow fast, there is political stability, excellent infrastructure and a solid workforce,” said Thomas Mende, president of U.S. operations for Klausner.

”Wood is being rediscovered as environmentally friendly,” Mende said.

In addition to Klausner’s new mill, other companies have opened lumber mills and wood processing plants in north Florida, where pine trees abound due to the region’s soil composition, long growing season and moist climate.

But even in Florida’s pine country, development may eventually dominate agricultural and other land uses.

“Trees are not always the highest and best use of land,” said timber expert Sara Baldwin, “and there are often economic pressures to develop.” [Minneapolis Star Tribune] — Mike Seemuth