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How the Paper and Wood Products Industry Offers Opportunity

It’s all too common for peoples’ minds to wander to life’s “what if's” or the “what could have been.”

But for Tony Murphy, Manufacturing Excellence Lead at International Paper, his decision to enter a pulp and paper career was a decision he'd never look back on or rethink.

Murphy grew up in the pulp and paper town of New Bern, North Carolina, but he had very little knowledge of the industry. His exploration into the pulp and paper industry started as a high school senior looking to further his education at North Carolina State University.

“I found that a pulp and paper degree offered many lucrative career opportunities. I was surprised to learn that this degree provided the highest starting salary out of all other degrees at NC State,” said Murphy.

At his job, Murphy notes there are endless opportunities for a variety of work – no two days are quite the same in his day-to-day job.

“You don’t always know what the day will bring when you come to work. You could be working with operations to troubleshoot process breaks, identifying areas for cost reduction, running trials, or working to develop new engineers and interns for the industry,” he said.

When asked what the industry means to Murphy and his family, he replies “opportunity.”

"Doing more with less. It not only makes sense from an environmental standpoint, but it makes good financial sense. Both our shareholders and customers demand it of us," he said. "Also, because trees are a renewable resource, I see our scientists continuing to expand the products that are made from them to help us in our everyday lives."

In Murphy’s 25 years of service, he’s noticed many changes in the pulp and paper industry and can see the industry's future.

"The industry is definitely more diverse from when I started 25 years ago. It has been great to see the industry evolve to include more people of color and women,” he says. “I believe diversity in the workforce helps to drive the best possible solutions in the workplace."

The American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA) serves to advance U.S. paper and wood products manufacturers through fact-based public policy and marketplace advocacy. The forest products industry is circular by nature. AF&PA member companies make essential products from renewable and recyclable resources, generate renewable bioenergy and are committed to continuous improvement through the industry’s sustainability initiative —Better Practices, Better Planet 2030: Sustainable Products for a Sustainable Future. The forest products industry accounts for approximately 5% of the total U.S. manufacturing GDP, manufactures about $350 billion in products annually and employs about 925,000 people. The industry meets a payroll of about $65 billion annually and is among the top 10 manufacturing sector employers in 43 states. Visit AF&PA online at or follow us on Twitter @ForestandPaper