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Life Cycle of the U.S. Paper Industry

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By Cathy Greenleaf, Senior Consultant, Fisher International

While the first U.S. paper mill may have started operations way back in 1690 (in Pennsylvania), the industry as we know it today is still not as old and mature as many people believe it to be. It’s an important question because industries behave differently depending on how mature they are. It’s useful to know where a business is in its evolution when thinking about your company’s strategy, whether for investing, developing new products, or planning how much to invest in sales and marketing. There’s academic support for looking at industries in terms of their stages of development. Let’s take a look at where the U.S. industry is today against the four stages of industry growth.

Technology is usually a principle driver of an industry’s development – think the steam engine in the 19th century, computer chips in the late 20th century and digital communications in the 21st century. Seminal new technologies stimulate investment in new production capacity and in more technology development. This, in turn, causes new companies to rise and others to fail. So, one important measure of an industry’s development stage is how much and how fast technology is changing. Which phase is the U.S. paper industry in now?

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