I’m a pulp and paper girl (born and raised in Thunder Bay and my dad’s in the industry). I know all too well about the problems facing the industry. I even did a paper on it last year for one of my classes, and interestingly enough,Yakabuski and I came up with the same conclusion: the industry’s failure isn’t so much a market-based (even with our extraordinarily high dollar), it’s not even a demand-based failure (paper consumption is up, but not newsprint- our main product) -IT’S VISION FAILURE.
I didn’t just like the article because it talked so much about Finland’s strength in the industry (although, have to say that it was really cool when Jyväskylä was mentioned!). I liked it because the pulp and paper industry is vital to the Canadian economy and we don’t at all give it enough respect for what it represents. People tend to forget that forest products are still our biggest net export and give more jobs than any other resource or manufactured good, including oil, gas and autos – and it represents approx 70% of our country’s total positive trade balance.
Lots of good points covered in the 6 page article:
- Canada dominates the industry in terms of natural resources, market proximity, educated workforce
- YET, Canada fails to see the prospects of “what could be” of the industry
- Finland is leading the way in every aspect of the game
- R&D, education, technology, (it’s the hub of p&p)
- Canada and Finland’s market situation is actually quite similar
- what we complain about here (i.e. high dollar etc.) is really the same for them
- the difference lies in our complacency, lack of R&D and lack of vision.
- forest industry has a lot of potential
- bioenergy (a topic that is quite fascinating and I can actually have talks with my dad about black liquor and combined heat and power etc. now! – I’ve said before, I’m quite the nerd)
- new inventions for paper (i.e. paper with RFID tags in them, nanotech paper etc.)
As for another part, that was just briefly touched on in the article: Finland is also the world leader in producing bioenergy and biomass combustion technologies. Actually, 20% of their primary energy is derived from wood fuels. Their goal is to constantly increase that number too to be more energy self-sufficient.
So it’s not just about the p&p companies – government needs to open their eyes too. I think they’re blinded by oil and gas and they forgot that our country was blessed with a lot more “renewable” types of energy. I’m not calling for an all-out harvesting party either. Trees are renewable though and there are proper ways to clear-cut. Also, there’s a lot of waste involved in the forest industry that can be put to good use – i.e. producing energy and heat with scraps.
Hopefully the people at the top (both government officials and corporate executives) get shaken up by his article and change their tune. A problem is just an opportunity in disguise…there is hope for our industry.