South Carolina Forestry’s $21 billion boost to economy

South Carolina’s Forestry Commission has revealed the industry’s incredible $21 billion contribution to the state’s economy.

The figure comes from a recent study published by Clemson University, which also found that the sector employs 84,000 people.

The findings were announced at a press conference on the grounds of South Carolina’s State House to mark “Forest Day” – a celebration of the forestry commission’s 90th birthday. It was followed by a tree-planting ceremony to mark the occasion.

This figure comes at the culmination of a near decade-long initiative among forestry advocates. The 20-by-15 Project was designed to aid the forestry industry’s recovery from the recession that was just beginning, with a goal to increase forestry’s economic impact from $17.4 billion in 2008 to $20 billion by 2015. And so far, the results have been impressive.

South Carolina now boasts 12.9 million acres of forests – 2.3 million more acres than was recorded in the first inventory taken in 1936.

According to the Clemson University study, commissioned by a group of forestry organisations, South Carolina’s forests, which represent a $262 million investment, are the state’s number one most-harvested crop, and forestry products are the top export commodity from the Port of Charleston.

The ever-growing industry, which covers logging, timber, paper production and conversion as well as several secondary product businesses, has been credited as being a major component to the state’s strong and diverse economy.

The pulp and paper sector is the industry’s largest, and represents over half the forestry sector’s employment and labour income. Overall, it provides just over 41,000 jobs and contributes about $14 billion in labour income. The main contribution comes from seven large pulp and paper mills, including West Rock in Florence and Sonoco in Hartsville.

The timber sector is the industry’s smallest component – employing 5,244 people and bringing in $482 million in labour income. Logging contributes just over $640 million and provides 6,622 jobs. Solid wood manufacturing, which includes nearly 100 primary mills and over 700 hundred secondary mills across the state, employs 22,000 people and contributes $4.4 billion.

The size and importance of forestry to economies is often overlooked due to the fact that much of the economic activity that occurs is on a wholesale level, away from public view. However, these products surround us and we depend on them in our daily lives. From paper and packaging to nappies, medicine, dyes and more.

South Carolina secretary of commerce Bobby Hitt said: “South Carolina is a state that is blessed with a beautiful geography and an abundance of natural resources, and as a result, we’ve been able to cultivate a very successful forestry industry.”

James Barrett, spokesman for global forestry investment company GWD Forestry, praised the study’s findings. “This is a fine example of the economic promise of forestry investment, and a bright hope for the future of the industry,” he said.


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