Jim Thompson
Jim Thompson
By Jim Thompson
HCP columnist


I date my involvement with the pulp and paper industry back to age 13 or 14 when my family was cutting pulpwood for the Chillicothe mill on McNary Hill in Paint Township. At the end of a chainsaw, I was certain I never wanted to be in this industry.

Now, at age 68, I have to report I have spent not only my teenage years but nearly my entire career in this industry – 55 years and counting.

You may think the pulp and paper industry went out with Mr. McClain’s horse collars. You could not be more wrong.

Although the internet dealt a number to grades we call “printing and writing” and “newsprint,” otherwise paper is stronger than ever. And so are the forests. Due to great forestry management over the last 100 years, forests in the United States are as abundant and productive as they were in the days of George Washington.

The biggest threat to trees today is urban sprawl as cities continue to expand. Recycling of paper has reached 80 percent according to the American Forest & Paper Association.

Paper is so ubiquitous in your life that you cannot live a day without it, no matter where you are on the economic ladder. If you are sitting in a normal room in a modest American home, you are surrounded by approximately 80 pounds of paper that serves as the “facing paper” on the wallboard on the walls. One of the toughest jobs we asked paper to do, this facing paper is made from 100 percent recycled paper materials.

If you have received a box for Christmas, delivered by any means imaginable, it was made out of paper, also likely recycled. Try tending to duties in the bathroom for one day without paper. Same goes for activities in the kitchen.

The internet scared the pulp and paper industry, causing a recession in the industry from about 1996 until about 2008. During that time, many professionals retired or left for other industries. Shortsighted management allowed great gaps to develop in succession planning. Since then, the industry has been playing catch up.

The nine universities around the country that offer degrees or certificates in pulp and paper science (this is similar to a degree in chemical engineering) have been bursting at the seams, trying to turn out enough students to meet the demand. Yet, they are not keeping up. This is probably the best time since World War II to join the pulp and paper industry as sharp performers are going to be moving ahead rapidly to fill the science and management vacuum.

This is where you, the target of the headline of this column, come in. A person in Highland County and I jointly own a company called Paperitalo Publications, LLC. Paperitalo Publications, LLC has funded a modest pulp and paper scholarship at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. Their pulp and paper science program is within their College of Engineering. Oxford is a short 78 miles from Hillsboro.

Provisions of the Paperitalo Scholarship state that, all else being equal, a qualifying student who graduated from a high school or was home schooled through high school in Highland County shall be given preference for this annual award.

Will this scholarship give you a free ride? Far from it, but other scholarships and summer jobs are available, too, for qualifying students. I strongly suggest you check this out if you have an inclination to study the sciences or engineering in your career.

If you have more questions about this I can answer, the editor will be happy to put you in touch with me.

Jim Thompson, formerly of Marshall, is a graduate of Hillsboro High School and the University of Cincinnati. He resides in Duluth, Ga. and is a columnist for The Highland County Press. He may be reached at jthompson@taii.com.