Although the economy is sluggish throughout the country, a new study shows Mississippi’s forestry industry is staying strong.
Forestry production ranks second in the state, behind poultry, generating $1.08 billion in revenue in 2008 and providing $17.37 billion to the state’s bottom line. A recent Mississippi State University report shows just how much of the state’s economy is rooted in the 19.6 million acres of forestland.
"While it’s well known that forestry is important to the state, most residents may not appreciate that 65 percent of the state’s total land area is covered in forest," said Ian Munn, a professor in MSU’s Forest and Wildlife Research Center.
Munn, along with forestry economists James Henderson and Donald Grebner, sought to measure the total economic impact of the timber products harvested and delivered to mills and manufacturing plants in Mississippi each year.
Based on 2006 data—the most recent available — the study found that forestry-related employment accounted for 8.5 percent of all jobs in Mississippi and paid an average annual wage of $40,713.
The project examined the forest industry’s four main sectors: logging, solid wood products, pulp and paper, and wood furniture manufacturing. To determine impact, the economists looked at direct, indirect and induced effects of the four sectors.
Employing a computerized database and modeling software, the researchers looked at employment, wages paid, total value of production and value added through the manufacturing process. According to results, the MSU forest and forest products industry provides 123,659 full- or part-time jobs with an associated annual payroll of $4.37 billion. The industry generates $7.12 billion in value-added income and $1.66 billion in tax revenue.
The study also examined the economic impacts of potential biofuel-related activities.
"Research has found that more than 3.5 million dry tons of logging residues and unharvested materials are recoverable for use as raw material for biofuels each year in Mississippi," said Henderson, assistant forestry professor and co-investigator.
Harvest and delivery of raw materials accounts for a 9 percent expansion in the logging sector and an increase of 1,700 jobs.
"Add to this the jobs created from operating a power plant or a cellulosic ethanol plant, and the possibilities are astounding," Henderson said.
Grebner, an MSU associate professor of forestery, said there is enough raw material to operate eight 100-megawatt power plants or five biofuel plants. Either of these scenarios would generate thousands of jobs and have a significant economic impact.
"The outlook is extremely promising for the forestry and forest products industries," Grebner said. "With the recent breakthroughs in the development of alternative fuels, the state is in an extraordinary position to reap the benefits of abundant forest resources once the economy rebounds."