Lumber prices falling, hurting timber companies - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Lumber prices falling, hurting timber companies

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April 7, 2008

Albany--  There's good news if you're looking to build a new home or make an addition to one. Now may be a good time because the price of lumber is at an all-time low.

Although that's good for customers and contractors, it's hurting Georgia's huge timber industry. But they're holding out hope that things will turn around soon.

With each cut, construction worker Shannon McQueary is working later than usual. "I'm cutting trim," said McQueary, "We've been real busy lately."

Eight hour days are now doubled at the work site.

"For the next three days, we'll be working sixteen hours a day," said McQueary.

He's working with lumber to get homes up and ready in Dougherty County. But as he works, business isn't as great for others.  "Our business is way off right now," said Burke Walters with F and W Forestry Services in Albany.

The prices for what gets measured and cut each day continue to get their own cuts. "All of our markets are depressed at this point in time," said Walters.

Walters says this is the worst he's seen the timber business in his 36 years. "Slow housing starts are the primary reason. Our business tends to follow that housing market fairly closely," said Walters.

Some argue the slow housing slump hasn't hit the area. Walters says it has because fewer homes are being built and that's one reason prices are much lower for common lumber.

"Pine chipping saw is now from $14 to $18 per ton," said Walters. That same ton would normally cost $22 to $28 a ton, a big difference. "All we can do is try to ride the downturn and hope it returns quicker that we expect it to," said Walters.

For now, the prices are helping some people to build homes at lower prices and keeping construction workers like McQueary busy. "I don't see us slowing down," said McQueary.

He foresees a continued upswing in business as lumber prices continue to come down.

Nationwide, lumber consumption hit an all-time high in 2005 but fell both in 2006 and 2007.  

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