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.
“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