CONCORD, NH — The Future Forest Economy Initiative is looking for new ideas, products and markets to increase demand for wood across the northern New England and New York. The deadline for concepts to considered in the first round of funding in 2020 is Dec. 2, 2019.
The initiative — a cooperative effort of the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA), U.S. Endowment for Forestry & Communities, and the Northern Forest Center — grew out of a congressional mandate to support the development of markets for wood products. Over the next three years, the Initiative cooperators will invest $2.6 million in sub-grants to expand innovation, create market demand and create conditions that will allow businesses and communities to benefit from these innovations.
“We’re excited to build on all we’ve accomplished through our forest economy programs by directing this significant investment to strategic opportunities in the regional forest economy,” said Joe Short, vice president of the Northern Forest Center, which is coordinating the grant program.
“This is such an important opportunity for the Northern Forest region to receive targeted investments to ensure diverse forest markets, strengthen the workforce and develop new uses for wood to take advantage of emerging technology and meet building needs in the Northeast,” said Alicia Cramer, vice president of the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities.
To be eligible for funding, projects must impact a county or counties within the service region of the Northern Border Regional Commission (http://www.nbrc.gov/content/northern-border-region). Projects must have clear and direct benefit for the wood products sector, but private companies cannot receive direct financing through this project. Eligible applicants include government, Native American government and organizations, nonprofits, and public and private institutions of higher education. Full criteria are detailed in Appendix I of the Call for Concepts (https://nfcenter.org/FFEIguidelines).
The Initiative is focused on four investment objectives developed after conversations with public and private leaders in the wood products sector, a survey of wood products businesses in the region, and assessment of relevant state and federal strategies. Priorities include:
- Supporting the development of new products and services from the region’s forests, particularly those that create or expand uses for low grade wood, mill residuals, and/or underutilized species.
- Conducting strategic marketing campaigns to expand wood industry interest in the region as a place to do business and increase consumer demand for wood products.
- Improving the efficiency of wood products supply chains to reduce transportation and production costs and increase access to markets for the region’s manufacturers.
- Strengthening the ability of the region’s wood manufacturers to capitalize on new market opportunities.
The initiative has identified priority activities for each objective, which are detailed in the Call for Concepts available at https://nfcenter.org/FutureForestEconomy.
The Northern Forest Center is now accepting project concepts for funding consideration. Applicants wishing to be considered for funding early in 2020 should submit initial concepts by Dec. 2, 2019. The Initiative will announce subsequent deadlines at a later date. The entire $2.6 million in available funds will be awarded by the end of 2021.
Funds for the program come from a congressional appropriation of $3 million in federal fiscal year 2018 intended to enable “EDA to collaborate with the Northern Border Regional Commission to support the development of markets for wood products. The Committee encourages EDA to work with communities researching and developing new construction technologies, such as engineered wood products,” according to the appropriation. The funds are matched by $300,000 from the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities to help cover project development and administrative costs.
“For more than a century the Northern Forest region benefitted from a strong forest products economy that generated some of the highest per capita incomes in the region’s four states,” said Short. “This initiative will help the industry continue to adapt to today’s world markets and develop new markets for forest products and services that deliver economic value back to the region's businesses, landowners, and communities.”
The Northern Forest Center is a regional innovation and investment partner creating rural vibrancy by connecting people and economy to the forested landscape. www.northernforest.org.
The U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities (the Endowment) is a not-for-profit public charity working collaboratively with partners in the public and private sectors to advance systemic, transformative, and sustainable change for the health and vitality of the nation’s working forests and forest-reliant communities. www.usendowment.org.