Consortium seeks to boost wood manufacturers

The Northeast Utilities Foundation has provided a $150,000, two-year grant to help the North Country’s wood products manufacturing industry.

The grant, awarded to the Northern Forest Center’s Sustainable Forest Futures subsidiary, provides the center with matching funds to leverage a grant from the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities that will help launch a regional Wood Products Consortium.

As proposed, the Regional Wood Products Consortium will encourage and facilitate innovation in the wood products industry and identify and help companies gain access to emerging domestic and export markets. The consortium will include industry trade associations as partners.

The Northern Forest — which spans 30 million acres across northern Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and New York — “has suffered tremendous economic hardship over the past decade,” said Gary Long, president and chief operating officer of Public Service of New Hampshire and a director of the NU Foundation. “For those of us in New Hampshire, this is most visible in the North Country.”

According to Rob Riley, president of the Northern Forest Center, “significant innovation and change are needed” for the region’s wood manufacturing industry “to become more vibrant and economically competitive.”

Initially, the consortium will develop and conduct a series of specialized innovation workshops for participating wood product companies, with different workshops focusing on different aspects of innovation, and with follow-up assistance to individual companies seeking to implement innovations.

In the future, the consortium also expects to pursue collaborative efforts to promote market development and access, said Riley. — JEFF FEINGOLD/NEW HAMPSHIRE BUSINESS REVIEW