• Steve Courtney

Post & Pole Survey to Enhance Vitality of Roundwood Industry

Purpose

The Intermountain Roundwood Association (IRA) and the Western Wood Preservers Institute (WWPI) are deeply rooted in the post & pole industry. Both organizations believe this sector, with a proven ability for utilizing small diameter roundwood, can grow significantly in the future. However, securing more consistent and adequate raw material supply is critical for enabling future growth. Therefore, WWPI has secured a Wood Innovation Grant and have asked The Beck Group, a Portland, Oregon based forest products planning and consulting firm, to visit post & pole manufacturing sites across the western US.



The site visits will allow for gathering detailed insights and information about the current competitive position of the roundwood industry. The site visits also include attendance by public agency forest management and timber sale planning staff so that they can better understand the needs of post and pole manufacturers. Ultimately, the project team will use all the information gathered in this study to identify and implement strategies and policies aimed at enhancing the vitality of the Western U.S. roundwood manufacturing industry.


The list below provides an overview of the data being collected about the current state of the post and pole industry. Note that no plant specific data will be recorded in any report, only industry averages:

· Raw material supply - types, sources, costs, and usage, etc.

· Operational metrics - staffing levels, operating hours, production, productivity rate, yield, etc.

· Product data - product types, product sizes, market areas, values.

· Chemical treatment - operating levels, types of chemicals used, types of products treated, etc.

· Equipment configuration - the types of equipment used in the manufacturing process.


The data from the onsite interviews will be summarized in a comprehensive written report that definitively captures the current competitive position of the industry and to develop a written “strategic roadmap” for enhancing Western U.S. roundwood industry vitality including formulating policy recommendations specific to the roundwood industry (e.g., policy affecting issues including supply, labor, chemical treatment, manufacturing, and markets including international trade-related issues).


Progress to Date

Sixteen post and pole producers have received visits from Beck Group staff to discuss the post and pole business. The visits have been very informative and illustrate the diversity in the post and pole business across the west and the strategies post and pole manufacturers are using to remain competitive. Future visits are planned. Beck staff anticipate those visits will show how other business models have proven successful.


The largest supply, of volume to post and pole producers surveyed thus far, is from federal lands which is supplying approximately 64 percent of the logs. Most of this is from US Forest Service lands, but the BLM is a significant supplier is some regions as well. Non-industrial private forests have been a larger portion of the supply than expected at 18 percent. Other suppliers are 5 percent or less.

Among surveys completed to date, most products produced are for fencing, followed by agricultural

uses at 49 and 31 percent respectively. These products fall mostly in the 3 inches to 7-inch diameter range with 78 percent of the products being produced in that size range. Most products are sold west of the Rocky Mountains as 70 percent goes to that region. The rest of the products are distributed throughout the United States with small percentage being exported.

Participation

Western US Post and Pole producers are encouraged to participate when called about the survey. The results of the survey will help the Intermountain Round Association communicate with policy makers about the roundwood business to create a better business environment or keep the business environment from deteriorating. Understanding the economic impact of the post and pole industry has on rural communities will help that communication. Results will also ensure that association activities are aligned with the needs of its members while promoting the roundwood industry.

Survey results will also help to strengthen the supply of raw materials coming from forests. They will demonstrate how the roundwood industry can help forest restoration objectives in the US West. Understanding the products produced will educate suppliers on the type of raw material that can be utilized and the volume of materials necessary to keep post and pole producers operating at capacity. This information can be used to encourage public forest owners to provide a consistent and adequate raw material supply to the post and pole industry.


If you have any questions regarding the survey, please contact Steve Courtney of The Beck Group Consulting at #(541) 527-2040 or stevec@beckgroupconsulting.com.