The year 2011 may already be well underway now, but this is the first issue of WBPI as we enter the second decade of the 21st century, so I hope it is not too late to say “Happy New Yearto all our readers!

Since the end of 2010, there has been more talk of recovery than there has been of recession and there does appear to be more optimism creeping back into many parts of the world.

That optimism is mainly centred on the prospects for growth in the developing world (South America, eastern Europe, the Middle East and Asia – particularly China), while the mature markets in western Europe and the US seem likely to see lower levels of growth.

In the US, the all-important (for panels at least) new housing market is still in the doldrums, with construction not expected to make a decent recovery until about 2015. However, general economic growth forecasts are a little more positive.

Our exclusive report from Pöyry Management Consulting on this issue gives a lot more detail on that company’s forecasts for general economic activity – and activity in our industry – up to 2015.

The area of surfacing panels is strongly represented in this issue and is in fact the main focus of Pöyry’s report. We also have Derek Steel’s four-page feature on this year’s ZOW exhibition in Bad Salzuflen, Germany and an explanation of the basics of the paper lamination process for MFC panels from Mark Irle.

In an increasingly competitive panel market, adding value to particleboard, MDF and plywood will surely become an increasingly important part of a panel manufacturer’s offering, together with increased flexibility in production and shipment of the various panel types, probably in smaller order quantities.

Rick Massey’s interview with Timber Products Company, a diversified manufacturer of panels in the US, gives a very good example of a company that has successfully adapted to this changing marketplace.

Talking of Rick, we welcome him to WBPI as our new North America correspondent, replacing our correspondent of over 30 years, Bill Keil; sadly for us, Bill has decided to retire and take some well-earned rest from his travels.

Rick Massey will be well known to a lot of our readers, having spent many years in the panel industry on the machinery side, and travelled extensively around the world visiting panel mills.

Rick has lived in Canada for over 20 years and we can look forward to many more interesting and informative articles from him, starting with our main Focus on North America in the next (April/May) issue of your magazine.

Another main feature of that issue will, of course, be the world-famous Ligna exhibition!