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Analysts, associations, publications help stay on top of industry trends

paper mill

Screenshot from Jennifer Levitz story on the boom of a once defunct paper mill in New Hampshire.

I didn’t know my obsession with keeping at least 12 rolls of toilet paper in stock was helping the “rebirth” of paper mills. But Jennifer Levitz of The Wall Street Journal found a once defunct paper mill in New Hampshire is back in business because of increasing demand for toilet and tissue paper.

She starts her story in Gorham, N.H., where a century-old paper mill reopened with new owners and 176 employees. In my favorite quote of the day, she writes:

“‘I know of nothing that can replace it. You can do digital on books and financials and all this, but it’s hard to do digital on tissue paper, hand towels and so forth,’ said Willis Blevins, the 70-year-old manager of Gorham Paper & Tissue. ‘Your bath tissue is always going to be there, in my opinion. What are you going to replace it with?’”

Jennifer says the story idea came from local coverage of a mill reopening. There was a mention of the focus being on tissue, which caught her eye.

“It stuck out to me, and I started wondering if this was going on elsewhere – if tissue was saving other mills,” she says.

Her research found news of other tissue plant openings as well as reports from tissue analysts who’d written about the trend.

Today’s Tip: Look to analysts, associations and publications to stay on top of industry trends.

Jennifer says she found a pallet industry analyst for her story last year about the battle between wooden and plastic pallet makers. Reporters can search online to find analysts for a specific industry, she says.

When you talk with analysts, Jennifer suggests asking for several years’ worth of data for areas such as production, truckloads or number of new plants. “It could be something as simple as 10 years ago there were two tissue plants, now there are 10 in the U.S.,” she said.

The U.S. Department of Commerce also can provide data on imports and exports to get a sense of how an industry is doing.

Associations also can be good sources of information. For this story, Jennifer contacted the American Forest and Paper Association. Finally, she recommends reading trade publications, which are often the first to note changes.

 

About the Author

Rosland Gammon is a former business journalist turned college instructor. Her newsroom experience includes reporting for The Philadelphia Inquirer, and reporting and editing at Bloomberg News. Gammon currently teaches communications at Alverno College in Milwaukee. Follow her daily posts. | E-mail: Rosland Gammon

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