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The PM40 managed to turn in a flat year, when all is said and done. Not bad, considering the performance turned in by our ever-critical colleagues in the financial community. When we look to the future, we have several matters in which to be optimistic. If we go to the basics, we can sum things up as follows:

Humans’ need to communicate. Let’s get the bad one out of the way first. We continue to cede this market to electronics of all types. The good news is we are taking our medicine as we go and have developed a pragmatic attitude. Look at the actions of Abitibi-Bowater in the last quarter, or Domtar’s decision to shut Port Edwards. Good moves.

Humans’ need for sanitary conditions. The home bathroom has long been a place filled with our tissue products. The public restroom is becoming recognized as a breeding ground for germs of all types and often the solution is turning out to be from the paper industry. Air hand dryers seem to be on their way out, as they have been recognized for what they are-—sophisticated atomizers of whatever might be in the air. Touchless towel and toilet paper dispensers seem to be the wave of the future. This is a growth industry.

Humans’ need to transport and present goods to the consumer. The replacement for the corrugated container has not been found, despite vigorous efforts by many. Sophisticated packaging is still recognized as the way to present and sell goods to the public. This is a growth industry.

Humans’ need for housing. Yes, this market is abysmal at the moment, but it, too, will return, and when it does, the need for paper and paperboard grades unique to this market will return as well.

And what about the building blocks behind these markets? Recycled fiber collection will continue to grow, not for moral or stewardship reasons, but because we need the fiber. Virgin pulp will make portions of South America and other favorable climates rich. Pulp will be in tight supply for years to come.

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