Hardwood Products Initiative

Submitted 5/12/17 by Wendy Gehlhoff
Forestry Committee Chair

Goal: Promote the Wood Products Industry and facilitate the workforce and resources needed for the Forest Products Industry to grow

  • Hosted Tools to Retain and Grow your Forest Industry Companies workshop 1/9/17 at the Northcentral Technical College Wood Technology Center of Excellence in Antigo to educate regional Economic Development professionals and others about the value of the industry, the equipment, the process and what to look for to trigger bringing in outside resources to assist a business. The group toured Kretz Lumber and discussed industry road blocks and issues with Mill Manager Troy Brown.
  • Partnered with NTC to offer a week long summer course titled “Introduction to the Forest Products Industry” for high school technical education and other teachers to learn about the industry, processes, markets and career opportunities they can share with their students. Participants will tour several manufacturers. Grow North is providing 16 -$526 tuition scholarships as well as a $100 travel stipend for each teacher.
  • Promoting the industry via a new Forest Products Industry sign for the Rhinelander airport and a brochure rack piece designed by Visions Northwest will be distributed.
  • Partnering with Nicolet College to develop and conduct a “Heavy Equipment Operator Class” (logging and road emphasis) this fall to help grow the regional workforce.
  • Joined with Visions Northwest to form a Wood Industry Collaborative to facilitate a new Wood Industry Conference and a “Wood is Good” marketing campaign.

 

Phase one:

Grow North partnering with New North Regional Economic Development was awarded a Hardwood Products Strategy grant in 2014. This grant hired an consultant (Don Peterson) to create a primary and secondary directory for the Wood Products Industry. Work will also includes a list of the top Wood Product Trade Shows to attend in the Country.

Phase two:

Create a marketing plan, the marketing materials suggested, and creating a schedule to begin attending trade shows promoting the Regions Wood Product Industry and assets. The Wisconsin Wood Products Market Expansion has been formed.

The USFS awarded a grant to Renewable Resource Solutions, LLC (RRS) in May of 2015 for our strategic project entitled “Wisconsin Wood Products Market Expansion”. This project was a natural extension of the work that our WI regional economic development agencies, New North and Grow North, did in 2015 entitled “Hardwood Products Industry Strategy”. This initial undertaking identified a number of opportunities that were scheduled to be initiated as part of the “Wisconsin Wood Products Market Expansion” endeavor that was slated to begin late 2015.

The USFS funding was initially awarded to RRS through the State and Private division of the agency. However, we were notified in August that those funds had been shifted to underwrite the firefighting efforts in the West. I am happy to say that we were contacted late December 2015 stating these funds have been reinstated by the federal government and are in the process of coming back to us in the amount of $250,000. We are currently waiting for the funds to arrive.

The Hardwood Products Industry Strategy study also researched and listed the top trade shows recommended for attendance. Once funds are in place we then can continue with phase two which creates a formal marketing plan and materials to begin attending these trade shows.

The Wisconsin Wood Council creation:

Grow North partnering with industry leaders is researching a proposal for a wood council. At this time the preliminary name is The Wisconsin Wood Council. The forestry and wood products industry are complex industries. There are many groups, organizations, individuals working to fill gaps in education, marketing, workforce, and regulatory issues. The purpose of the Wisconsin Wood Council is to bring all entities together on neutral ground.

To facilitate collaboration and lessen duplication of efforts. To strengthen our voice with a collective message not as a particular group but rather the industry as a whole. To bring all the pieces together so as to move the industry forward in a collaborative and precise effort. The Wisconsin Wood Council will have a board of directors, industry committee’s (to ensure every industry has a voice), a lobbying arm, and a marketing arm. With this the goal of WWC is to promote and move the sector of forestry and wood products forward by combining efforts, collaborating, and educating. Tying it all together to move forward and have a stronger, louder voice.

This council will cover Wisconsin and Upper Michigan to represent the chequamegon-Nicolet and ottawa national forests. We are currently in the councils infancy stage and are working on a draft structure of the council, a starting point if you will. Once we have a more solid document we will put a link on our website. This is to be a fluid organization, meaning it is industry lead (not agency lead) and the industries will decide the direction as well as work plan.

Grow North’s role in this is to be the convener, facilitator, and a entity of neutral ground for the council. If you would like to find out more please contact Executive Director Angela Schreiber.