Although Georgia’s forestry industry is facing revenue setbacks and job losses resulting from stiff international competition, the state’s forestry community still has great opportunities if it targets more niche markets, said Georgia Forestry Commission Director Ken Stewart.

As the “largest economic engine in the state,” Georgia forestry’s “glass is really half full,” Mr. Stewart said during the Georgia Forestry Association’s annual meeting on July 12 in Amelia Island, Fla. The Association is comprised of more than 2,300 individuals and companies representing forest landowners and manufacturers statewide.

Georgia’s commercial potential from forestry is greater than any other state in the United States, he said, but it costs up to 30 percent more to produce forest products here than in some other countries. As a result, Georgia forestry went from being a $30 billion industry in 2003 to a $20.2 billion industry in 2004, losing 25 percent of its manufacturing jobs, he noted.

But even with the recent loss of jobs and revenues, Georgia forestry represents a $12.7 billion direct annual economic impact on the state’s economy, directly creating more than 65,000 jobs and supporting more than 135,000 related jobs statewide.

Mr. Stewart told GlobalAtlanta that the forestry industry in Georgia would do well to expand its offerings to value-added, niche markets such as bioenergy and composite and engineered products, in addition to the wealth of wood commodity currently produced in the state.

“We’re going to have to morph and change to survive in the global economy,” Mr. Stewart said. “Globalization is with us… We’ve got to think globally. We’ve got something significant to sell from our state,” he added.

Georgia foresters could tap into the potential of currently wasted logging residues and urban area biomass removals that could amount to as much as 50 million tons per year, he said. Ethanol, a fuel that can be derived from woody biomass, could potentially replace every gallon of gasoline used in Georgia in one year, he asserted.

“Forget about OPEC, think WoodPEC,” Mr. Stewart joked, referring to the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries that negotiates oil production and prices with oil companies.

Mr. Stewart also highlighted Georgia forestry’s role in carbon trading, which is expected to become a $12-18 billion industry over the coming years. The process allows companies that burn fossil fuels to buy carbon credits from forest companies to compensate for carbon dioxide emissions. One credit is equivalent to one metric ton of carbon emitted by the burning of fossil fuels.

The European Union has led the carbon trading movement, with one ton of carbon there currently valued at $20-25, Mr. Stewart said. Whether or not one believes in global warming – the theory that increased carbon dioxide in the earth’s atmosphere is leading to higher temperatures – “[carbon credit trading] is a market for Georgia forestry,” he said.

This type of diversification is possible for Georgia’s forestry industry, Mr. Stewart added, because of the large percentage of forested land in the state that is privately owned. Two-thirds of Georgia’s land is considered forestland. Most of that forestland is considered commercially viable, with private non-industrial landowners owning almost three-quarters of it.

Programs are being put in place to assist landowners to manage their forest resources, such as the Georgia Forestry Commission’s Forest Stewardship Program, which helps landowners manage forestland, as well as the development of Georgia’s Carbon Credit Registry that will establish protocols for attaining carbon credits and possibly opportunities to buy and sell those credits.

Founded in 1907, the Georgia Forestry Association is a membership-based group that works to educate business, environmental and political leaders about forestry issues.

Contact the Association’s executive director, Steve McWilliams, through the Association’s headquarters at (478) 992-8110 or The Georgia Forestry Commission’s director, Mr. Stewart, can be reached at (800) 428-7337. Visit for more information.