Lumber industry still vibrant part of Pennsylvania

The lumber industry has long been a big part of the state’s economy and continues to bring jobs to people willing to work.

At the annual Keystone Wood Products Association dinner, industry officials talked about some of the opportunities available and how education is being done to help sustain forestry in the state.

Matt McGovern, KWPA educational specialist, spends much of his time spreading the word to youths about careers in forestry.

In the past year, he spoke to more than 300 students in area school districts.

“I am looking forward to another year of spreading the message,” he said during the KWPA annual dinner May 1

Chuck Coup, program manager with the Pennsylvania Sustainable Forestry Initiative, noted his organization offers some 30 training programs centered around the industry.

Courses include those on wildlife, hydraulic systems safety management and advanced logger rescue.

The rescue course, he said, is particularly valuable for those working in the industry as loggers not only face workplace hazards but often sustain further injury in rescue attempts.

His organization often reaches out to schools to do training.

Williamsport/Lycoming Chamber of Commerce Vice President Jason Fink said area high school students were introduced to the industry through the “What’s So Cool About Manufacturing?” program.

“We are looking to expand our initiative with this,” Fink said. “Hopefully, it will mean finding students to come work for lumber industries.”

State Sen. Gene Yaw, R-Loyalsock Township, noted the number of area companies connected to the forestry industry including Dwight Lewis Lumber Co., Hillsgrove and Gilson Snowboards, New Berlin. He noted the lumber boom of more than 100 years ago when Williamsport was known as the lumber capital of the world.

“Our goal is to get hardwoods out there front and center,” said KWPA board chairman Scott Seyler. “We still have a vibrant industry here.”

Nearly 12,000 people are employed in the wood products industry in the region, accounting for 19 percent of its manufacturing employment, according to KWPA figures.