Aubra Anthony's Vision Serves Company

by John Henry  on Monday, Dec. 21, 2009 12:00 am  

Aubra Anthony, president and CEO of Anthony Forest Products Co., says, "We began making adjustments earlier than most did."

Ten years ago, the forest industry in Arkansas employed some 45,000 workers, said Matthew Pelkki, professor at the School of Forest Resources at the University of Arkansas at Monticello. By the end of 2008, the number had dropped to just more than 33,000, he said, and the jobs of probably another 5,000 workers are on hold as their plants are temporarily idled.

"If you survive, you win," Anthony said.

Last month, Anthony Forest Products joined a trend of the major companies in selling all of its timberland.

The company owned 91,360 acres (50,000 acres in Arkansas), which it sold for $173.15 million (about $1,895 an acre) to Molpus Woodlands Group of Jackson, Miss., a timberland investment management organization.

The deal includes a long-term timber supply agreement for Anthony Forest to keep its mills at Urbana (Union County); Atlanta, Texas; and Plain Dealing, La., operational. Anthony manufactures lumber and engineered wood products for the building industry, as well as wood chips for the paper industry.

The deal was very tax efficient for the company and the stockholders, Anthony said. While the sale of the timberland was primarily to provide liquidity for estate planning, he said, it also allowed the company to pay off all debt and gives it working capital for investment.

The List

(To view this week's list of the largest forest products companies, click here for a PDF and here for a spreadsheet version.)

Most of the employment numbers at the state's largest forest products companies are down some this year, although not as much as might be expected given the prolonged recession.

Pelkki said many of the closings were among the smaller operators. Production capacity, he estimated, is still at between two-thirds and three-quarters of normal, and 25 percent of the jobs lost - primarily those in the sawmill and logging sectors - will be permanent.

According to the 2009 Economic Impact of Arkansas Agriculture report, produced by the University of Arkansas, the state ranks fifth in the nation in the production of softwood lumber. The value-added impact of the forestry sector is $2.83 billion, the report said.

Georgia-Pacific LLC, which earlier this month permanently closed its plywood plant at Fordyce, putting 346 workers out of a job, remains the largest operation in the state with more than 2,100 workers, mostly in south Arkansas.



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