Reflecting on the past year at the Center reminds me that we are evolving almost daily! I'm proud of the nimble, business-like approach we’re taking to address persistent issues across the 26-million-acre Northern Forest region of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and New York. Over the past 20 years, we’ve invested in regional collaboration and advocacy, and in new ways to enhance core elements of today’s forest economy—tourism development, automated wood heat, and wood products manufacturing. We are always looking at the environment, seeking to understand how it’s changing; we work to adapt our programming to serve Northern Forest communities and our mission.
Building on our existing work, two specific examples of our evolution include:
Strengthening demand for local-sourced wood in commercial construction
We’re increasing the use of locally-sourced wood in commercial construction by working with sawmills, modular home manufacturers such as Vermod and KBS Builders, and manufacturers of “mass timber” designed for multi-story commercial construction. Improvements to these businesses impact hundreds of jobs and millions of board feet of wood. We want to cultivate a culture of research, development AND commercialization necessary for economic resilience.
Putting communities at the center and adding new expertise
We have increased our focus within specific locations, which enables us to deliver multiple program services in focal towns and to leverage new types of work such as high-speed internet and real estate development to assist communities seeking to become more prosperous and resilient. For example, in the Maine West region (Rumford, Bethel, South Paris and Norway) we helped to secure an internet planning proposal on behalf of 27 towns that will guide long-term build out. And in Millinocket, Maine, the Center launched a new housing initiative to meet the emerging demand for housing by entrepreneurs and others who want to be part of the town’s renaissance.
If not for the Center’s capacity and leadership, neither of these initiatives would be underway.
By: Maura Adams
Peter Bourne stood at a lectern in Burlington recently, renewable energy leadership award in hand, and smiled. “I’m pretty sure this is the first time people at a climate change conference ever clapped for the owner of a fossil fuel company,” he said, and the crowd clapped even more, laughing in a moment of rare affinity with someone whose bread and butter is, after all, oil and propane sales.
But Bourne’s Energy – along with Sandri in Massachusetts, Ehrhart and Vincent’s in New York, and Daigle Oil in Maine, among others – is also helping create a cleaner energy future by expanding into bulk wood pellet delivery and boiler installation. Switching from fossil fuels to wood pellets for heat cuts carbon emissions by over 50%, according to a 2016 study commissioned by the Northern Forest Center (https://northernforest.org/programs/modern-wood-heat/wood-pellet-greenhouse-gas-emissions-study). Companies like these are making significant investments in this sector, because they recognize both the environmental benefits and economic opportunity associated with local, renewable heat.
by: Jessica O'Hare
The Maine Woods Tourism Training Initiative is a project of the Northern Forest Center and the Maine Woods Consortium, in partnership with seven economic development organizations. Its focus is strengthening tourism businesses across 12 million acres of forestland and forest communities in seven counties of the Maine Woods.
The recent conclusion of a USDA Rural Development grant that supported the project prompted us to reflect on the Initiative’s impact and what we’ve learned over the past three years:
- 49 trainings
- 717 Employees Trained
- 295 Tourism Businesses
- 454 Total Businesses
The project took it one step further than training alone. To help businesses act on the ideas the trainings offered, we provided small grants to help them take on strategic projects with the help of an outside consultant. See a map of all grantees. Together, we delivered:
- 38 small grants to businesses, totaling $44,280
- $66,480 in private investment leveraged
- Assistance to 51 business owners
- Strengthening jobs for 113 full time employees and 133 part-time or seasonal employees
By: Julie Renaud Evans, Maura Adams and Jessica O'Hare
Exploring Lancaster, NH is like finding a hidden jewel. It’s a beautiful town nestled between the Northern White Mountains and the Connecticut River valley in northwest New Hampshire. The waters of the Israel River that run through town once powered manufacturing and mills; today it weaves quietly through the heart of the community. Fertile fields along these rivers support one of the largest family-run dairy farms in New Hampshire, and provide a pastoral setting to two covered bridges. Downtown Lancaster is home to successful businesses – a bakery, movie theater, fitness center and more on the way. The former Lancaster National Bank that dominates one end of Main Street is currently being renovated as a business center with a brew pub, an art gallery and maybe a business incubator.