Happy New Year and every success to the newly started year 2017, which is loaded with high expectations for change all over the world.
Right now, the USA and the rest of the world are anxiously waiting what kind of policy changes and other implications the new presidency of Mr. Donald Trump brings. Also the implications of Brexit should become more clear during this year. There are also other important elections up-coming in Europe, for example in France, which will shape the future of the continent. More surprises might be thus still coming.
Political uncertainty is thus strongly increasing, however, in the real economy many indicators have started to show positive results, and not least in our bioforest industry. The direct forest industry investments to Finland reached almost one billion euros for the second consecutive year in 2016, and also the value of the exported goods by forest industry is closing the all time high level. In the past few years, we have seen notable investments not only to the conventional production, especially in chemical pulp and packaging products, but also to totally new goods and business concepts such as renewable biofuels, bio composites, lignin extraction or MFC/NFC fibres. The largest ever industrial investment in Finland, 1,2 biollion euro investment to Äänekoski bio product mill by Metsä Group, will start-up operations on the latter half of the year, perfectly also to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Republic of Finland.
In other words; we have witnessed a significant positive turn in our bioforest industry. The conventional products will have a major role in our companies' cash flows and results still for a long time, but the focus is more and more in the future and totally new products. Regarding the competitiveness factors we have come "back to basics": the availability of reasonably priced raw materials and energy, and increasingly, also the stability and predictability of the operational environment, have lifted Finland as the engine of the new bio economy.
At the same time, the last existing barriers between the traditional industries have disappeared. In addition to the production of the conventional products, also energy effectiveness and products as well as biochemicals and other side streams will have an increasing importance in value creation.
In line with the new era of our industry, also the 102-year-old Paper Engineers' Association (PI) will renew itself. Following the decisions made in 2016, from here onwards the association will be renamed to Forest Products Engineers (PI). With the new name and strategy, we wish to be a home and forum for networking for a growing number of professionals working in the bioforest industry. We want to also continue being an active and wanted cooperation partner to the leading companies, stakeholders and decision-makers in our industry. We can offer up-to-date information, networking possibilities and support for professional development.
You're most welcome to visit our website and hopefully you get carried away to join our activities! During 2017 we will be starting our transformation journey and will rethink our way of working, test some totally new activities and in general, target to bring our contribution to the positive upturn of our bioforest industry.