Forestry impact hits $18.6 billion, commission says

State Forester Gene Kodama, agency director of the South Carolina Forestry Commission, left, joined South Carolina Forestry Association President and CEO Cam Crawford Tuesday in announcing forestry’s contribution to the state’s economy.

S.C. FORESTRY COMMISSION

The forest products industry makes a nearly $19 billion annual contribution to the state’s economy, according to the S.C. Forestry Commission.

Earlier this year, the Palmetto Agribusiness Council completed a study primarily on the manufacturing arm of the forestry industry, according to Tim Adams, resource development division director at the S.C. Forestry Commission. He said the council’s study left out some non-manufacturing sectors such as the pine straw industry, forestry-based recreation and Christmas tree sales.

So the forestry commission paid for a study by David Hughes, a professor in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics at the University of Tennessee, on those other sectors. Results of the study were released during a statewide meeting of forestry professionals this past week.

With data from both studies combined, Hughes estimated the total contribution of forestry and forest products to the S.C. economy to be 90,320 jobs, $4.481 billion in labor income, $6.757 billion in gross state product and $18.573 billion in economic impact on the state.

Hughes also broke down the figures by sector.

*Forestry-based recreation, which includes hunting and bird watching but not fishing, had a $778 million economic impact based on 10,178 jobs and $268 million in labor income, the study said.

*Christmas tree production and forest service providers generated almost $64 million and 1,425 jobs for the state’s economy. Firewood, mulch and soil conditioners, pine straw and shavings mills combined to generate nearly 400 jobs and $112 million. Additionally, woody biomass producers, which create energy from wood and other sources, created 115 jobs and $111.4 million, according to the study.

*Window blinds and shades, as well as wood laminate, wood caskets and wood mattresses added about $250 million to the economy and just more than 800 jobs, while forestry-related federal government, state government and university activity generated almost $58 million in spending and 556 jobs, the study said.

“It’s about what we were expecting,” Adams said. “The last study we did was in 2006. It was $17.4 billion in economic impact.”

After that study, the commission initiated a program with a goal to grow the industry to $20 billion by 2015. Adams said the latest study is a “midterm report on our success” since most of the data for it came from the past two years.

“We won’t know whether we met the $20 billion goal for a couple years, maybe late 2016 or early 2017,” he said.

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Editor

Lee Harter has been editor of The Times and Democrat since 1981

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