Most people, particularly financial analysts who study the company, classify Rayonier Inc. as a forest products company.
It makes sense. Jacksonville-based Rayonier's main businesses are growing and managing timber and using those trees to make products.
However, Rayonier has a different view of its place in the world, Chairman and CEO Paul Boynton said Thursday at the GrayRobinson Jacksonville Community Leader Forum at The River Club.
Boynton said the company classifies itself as a "science-based natural resources company."
Instead of producing products that people typically associate with pulp, like paper and cardboard, Rayonier produces specialty performance fibers.
"What we do better than anybody in the world is high-purity cellulose fiber," Boynton said.
Rayonier sells these fibers for products all over the world and it gives the company a distinct perspective on the global economy, which Boynton shared with the forum.
For example, Boynton keeps his eye on sausage sales in Europe. Rayonier's fibers are used in sausage casings.
"Believe it or not, it's a sizable business," he said.
The European sausage business is closely tied to the state of the economy, he said. It's a product people turn to in tough times.
"When the economy is down, we see this go up," Boynton said.
A weak European economy also means greater demand for sponges containing Rayonier's fibers. People are eating more meals at home, necessitating more cleaning in the kitchen.
Boynton also keeps tabs on the European automobile market, because Rayonier's products are used in coatings as well as tires. Automobile production in Europe has been slow.
"It's a smaller part of our business, but we certainly do feel it," he said.
Rayonier is watching shipments of LCD televisions from Japan, because its fibers are used in the LCD screens.
The wide range of uses for Rayonier's performance fibers can be surprising. In the U.S., the company tracks the pharmaceutical markets.
"All your Advil, all your Tylenol has our products in it," Boynton said.
Low-fat food products also contain cellulose fibers produced by Rayonier.
"You've got to put something in when you take something out," Boynton said.
Rayonier does track some traditional wood products. The company manages timberlands in New Zealand, so it tracks New Zealand log exports. And because it ships logs to China from New Zealand, as well as from the state of Washington, it studies construction demand in China.
Boynton has an optimistic view of the global economy right now.
"It's moving in the right direction overall," he said.
The European economy is down and Japan is moving sideways, he said, but China and the rest of Asia are moving up.
The U.S. economy may not be growing as fast as everyone would like but it is moving up.
"The good news is it has stabilized," Boynton said.
Rayonier's focus on science-based natural resource development is paying off for its shareholders, Boynton said.
"With that we've developed into a strong company, a strong-dividend paying company," he said.
Just last week, Rayonier increased its quarterly cash dividend by 5 cents to 49 cents a share. That's part of the company's commitment to providing a strong shareholder return, Boynton said.
"We're very proud of what we've done in that realm," he said.