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Friday, September 7, 2012

Quick Notes for the Weekend

The Pennsylvania Biomass Energy Association is having their first annual conference on October 2nd and 3rd at the Harrisburg East Holiday Inn. Sounds like a great event from the line-up of speakers they've put together, and interesting tours will be given to those who want to see biomass energy close up. Click here to see all the details...

Received a nice note from Jessica Hickman of the famous Hickman Lumber family in western PA, and she brought her blog site to my attention. She's a natural writer, does a great job explaining lumber-related trivia, and her photography is stunning. Check it out here...

Also had an interesting exchange with Patrick Kennedy of Superior Woodcraft. Here's a shortened version of the exchange...
Patrick: ...I reblogged your information about clearcutting.  This type of information is helpful for our industry.  Many clients feel bad about buying wood cabinets because they are cutting down trees.  When I talk to them about the benefits many feel better after they learned about the benefits of sound forestry practices.
Chuck:  ... How's business?
Patrick: ...we are keeping pace.  Pricing power is still non-existent.  There is still too much capacity in the cabinet industry.  It doesn’t feel like we are sinking deeper into a hole, but it doesn’t feel like much relief either.
Chuck:  That's exactly how I would summarize the building and lumber sectors. Interesting. When you say "too much capacity" that doesn't bode well for the jobs outlook...
Patrick:  A lot of these cabinetmaking jobs are never coming back.  I talked to some larger companies in the ... area.  The personal toll it took on the companies was extremely high when they were forced to downsize.  They were turning their fellow church members, friends, neighbors and family out into the streets with no jobs at a time when there were no jobs to be had anywhere.  The leadership vowed never to be put into that position again because it was just too emotional.  Instead these companies are looking to engineers to find ways to increase productivity so that they don’t need to hire all of the folks back.  It is easier to turn off a machine when work slows then it is to fire members of your community. 
Then you add on all of the government issues with hiring employees and you have additional business reasons not to add to staff.
Chuck:  Yes...It's difficult for me to think of all the great folks I worked with in the 1980's and 90's who I know have been laid off and still are looking for work, or are in jobs that aren't nearly as good as what they had 10-20 years ago....I think that's what's really at the root of the economic "non-depression" we're in.
 Patrick: People are shocked when I tell them that about 70% of cabinetmakers across the country aren’t working and that the 30% that are working probably many of them aren’t work a full 40 hours...In just about every industry people tell me that they are working twice a much and getting half of the results compared to the past.  That is a major adjustment we are all making and you are right that is where the big problem lies.  Makes me want to head for the woods, get a basic income, have a garden, some animals and enjoy the family more.  I’ll have less anyway, but enjoy life more.
I'll let Patrick's closing comment end this post...
I do have expectations that things will turn better.  It is just a question as to when and how long will it take.  Have a great weekend.  

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