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Market Assessment and Economic Potential of the Red Pine Utility Pole Industry in Wisconsin

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Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin electric and telephone utilities use an estimated 278,000 distribution poles annually, of which 180,000-245,000 are 35 or 40 ft long and in pole Class 1, 2 or 3. Most poles are southern pine, Douglas-fir or western red cedar. Red pine's current market share is only 7%. Most utilities surveyed expressed a willingness to use red pine poles if they could be purchased at the same or at a slightly lower price than they currently pay for southern pine poles. A local pole production facility would benefit from Wisconsin's lower stumpage prices and transportation costs relative to those in the Pacific Northwest and the South. Wages are somewhat higher in Wisconsin than in competing regions, but on balance Wisconsin producers should initially enjoy a net cost advantage of $18-$38 per pole. As pole production expands, some of this cost advantage is expected to be passed on to timber growers in the form of higher stumpage prices. A single pole-treatment facility could treat 10,000-15,000 poles annually, and retain an additional one to two million dollars per year in the state economy. The regional demand appears to be sufficient to support several such plants. Whether sufficient pole material supply would be forthcoming from Wisconsin forests to support such plants is a crucial question that remains to be addressed. North. J. Appl. For. 7:189-193, December 1990.

Document Type: Journal Article

Affiliations: School of Natural Resources, College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI 53706

Publication date: December 1, 1990

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  • Each regional journal of applied forestry focuses on research, practice, and techniques targeted to foresters and allied professionals in specific regions of the United States and Canada. The Northern Journal of Applied Forestry covers northeastern, midwestern, and boreal forests in the United States and Canada.
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