Timber industry suffering - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Timber industry suffering

October 13, 2003

Cuthbert-- Burgin Lumber in Cuthbert suspends production of its saw mill, "Places like Burgin are shutting down in part because of the strength of the dollar."  The South Georgia timber business is facing the toughest market in decades.

After more than fifty years in the business, The Burgin Companies in Cuthbert has stopped running its saw mill. Del-Cook Lumber Company's saw mill in Adel is closed, so is Mead-Westvaco's mill in Middle Georgia.

Industry leaders are calling the current market the worst in a quarter of a century.  Each week, this independent logging crew harvests 1,500 tons of timber they ship to saw mills in the area.  But several, like Burgin in Cuthbert, have stopped production.

"When those companies close down it makes you wonder what's going to happen in the future."  Marshall Thomas, President of F&W Timber Services in Albany, says there are several reasons why saw mills in Georgia are shutting down, "The 25 years I've been in the business this is the worst downturn I've been through."

A downturn caused in part by the strength of the dollar. But, there's another factor, too--foreign wood, "Back in the mid-90's when the economy in Asia collapsed, Canada lost a big market and starting shipping wood down here. In Canada the government owns most of the timber and they sell it to mills at reduced prices to create full employment."

It's a double whammy--a strong dollar coupled with unfair compeition. A combination that's causing long-time saw mills, like Burgin's, to suspend opertions and lay off dozens of employees.

The good news: the industry is rebounding. The dollar is weakening and the United States is working toward a resolution with Canada over market sharing.

Posted at 4:30 p.m. by melissa.kill@walb.com