The numbers alone speak volumes of the importance of Georgia’s forestland. In 2013, forestry’s total economic impact was $28.9 billion, providing the state with $746 million in tax revenues. The same year, it also supported 133,353 jobs and provided $7.24 billion in wages and salaries, making forest-related industries Georgia’s second-largest manufacturing employer.
With 24.4 million acres of timberland available for commercial use – more than any other state in the U.S. – Georgia benefits from valuable timber commodities like pulpwood, lumber, poles and veneer logs. Not forgetting a long list of non-timber products like Christmas trees, food, medicine and recreation, the advantages of this natural resource are truly priceless.
“Above and beyond these figures, the forests provide Georgians with an estimated $37 billion in ecosystem benefits annually,” says Wendy Burnett, public relations director at Georgia Forestry Commission, a state agency responsible for protecting and preserving the state’s forest resources.
By partnering with the U.S. Forest Service, the commission tracks forest inventory measurements across the state to ensure long-term sustainability.
“Forests lost to urbanization have been offset primarily by farmlands being converted back to forestlands,” Burnett says.
In fact, Georgia’s forestland coverage has remained stable since the 1950s.
“This data continues to show that Georgia’s forests are going to be around for future generations to enjoy.”
However, what these impressive statistics can’t tell is the deep-rooted connection between the people and the forests, the farmers and their land – a bond that has provided a livelihood to Georgians for generations.
Finding Opportunity in the Trees
“My story is the story of a young guy growing up in Georgia with a passion for the outdoors and the understanding that the land has been good to my family,” says Chad Nimmer, a timber business operator and member of the Georgia House of Representatives since 2011. “The land had given my family for four generations the opportunity to work and make a living.”
Raised on the family farm, Nimmer learned the treasures and toils of working the land. Always one to sneak off to the woods growing up, the stars aligned when, as a young adult, he accepted an opportunity to learn about forest procurement by working for Mac Thompson and his son, Hugh, at Pierce Timber Company.
“It was all local guys working together to buy timber and run logging crews,” Nimmer says.
Then in 2005, he was offered the chance to help grow the business further and ultimately became owner and operator of Suwannee Forest Products, a harvesting company for Pierce Timber Co.
Ten years later, Nimmer’s excitement for the industry is still contagious, as is his appreciation for Georgia’s bountiful trees. On a typical day, he wakes around 5 a.m. to start checking emails from the mills and communicating with crews. That’s his routine, but he says every day brings its own agenda – from unexpected landline issues to mill meetings to operating high-tech equipment.
“It’s a seven-day-a-week job if you allow it to be,” Nimmer says. “But it’s hard work that is so rewarding.”
He’s so committed to the industry that he works to educate landowners on how they can best utilize their timber and has initiated a Timber Harvesting and Operations Program for high school seniors to learn first-hand about the logging industry and its career opportunities.
“I always enjoy sitting down telling this story – how lucky we are to manage this natural resource,” Nimmer says. “Georgia has some of the best soil to grow timber, some of the best markets and mills to utilize the timber, and we have some of the greatest professionals out there logging and harvesting. I’m amazed that I get to be a part.”