A Cooperative Initiative between the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA), U.S. Endowment for Forestry & Communities, and the Northern Forest Center.

The Future Forest Economy Initiative responds to a congressional mandate to support the development of markets for wood products. Over the next three years, the Initiative cooperators will provide $2.6 million in sub-grants to projects that deliver regional approaches to:

  • Innovate new forest products and the business infrastructure to commercialize them;
  • Create market demand for wood and wood products across the Northeast and New York; and
  • Enable the conditions that allow businesses and communities to benefit from these innovations.

Economic Background

For over a century the Northern Forest region of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and New York provided lumber and fiber to feed economic growth along the eastern seaboard. In those communities that produced and added value to the forest resource, residents benefited from some of the highest per capita incomes in their states. Over time, however, consumer tastes, world trade, multinational corporate ownership and regulations eroded the economic vibrancy – and ultimately the socio-demographics – of this region. Despite the more than 70 million people that live within a day’s drive, the region is struggling to adapt and has limited investment dollars for developing new markets for forest products and services that deliver economic value back to the region's businesses, landowners, and communities.

In recognition of this challenge, a Congress appropriated $3 million in FY18 "for 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."

Investment Objectives

The EDA, Center and the US Endowment worked together to develop the Future Forest Economy Initiative. The Center is now accepting project concepts for funding consideration. Please read the Investment Objectives below and the full criteria in the PDF linked below.

In support of the broad goals above, the Initiative is focused on 4 interrelated investment objectives informed by 1:1 conversations with public and private-sector leaders, a survey of wood products businesses in the region, and assessment of relevant state and federal strategies.

1.    Support 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. Priority project activities include:

  • Research, Development and Commercialization of new products from wood.
  • Testing and real-world demonstration of new wood-based product applications.
  • Design and pre-engineering for innovative use of wood for construction and energy applications.
2.    Conduct strategic marketing campaigns to expand wood industry interest in the region as a place to do business and increase consumer demand for wood products. Priority project activities include:
  • Business Attraction. Coupled with necessary market research, market the region to locate and grow wood products businesses.
  • Consumer Awareness and Marketing. Conduct strategic marketing campaigns to increase consumer awareness of Northern Forest wood products and services.

3.    Improve the efficiency of wood products supply chains to reduce transportation and production costs and increase access to markets for the region’s manufacturers. Priority project activities include:

  • Regional site assessment(s). Identify suitable locations for new wood utilizing facilities (e.g. site characteristics, proximity to raw material, workforce, transportation, and available financing options).
  • Transportation solutions. Develop innovative solutions to optimize supply chains, particularly for low-value wood.
  • Co-location. Advance initiatives that lead to co-location of multiple wood-utilizing facilities in close proximity to one another.

4.    Strengthen the ability of the region’s wood manufacturers to capitalize on new market opportunities. Priority project activities include:

  • Workforce development and retention. Develop innovative and replicable models for attraction, retraining and retention of workers in the wood products sector, with an emphasis on post-secondary education strategies.
  • Innovation technical assistance. Deliver non-exclusive programs of business technical assistance to assist the sector in implementing business and manufacturing innovations that enable access to new markets.

The Center is now accepting project concepts for funding consideration. Download the Call for Project Concepts.