Northern Minnesota and Wisconsin have an extensive supply of underutilized wood species, according to an extensive wood fiber availability analysis funded by the regional business group, Area Partnership for Economic Expansion (APEX).
“There is tremendous potential to increase investment at existing facilities and to site new value-added manufacturing that has the capacity to convert underutilized tree species to products including specialty chemicals, transportation fuels and other products” APEX President and CEO Brian Hanson said in a prepared statement announcing the results.
Results of the analysis will be used to promote new private sector investment in existing forest product and manufacturing operations and the recruitment of new, value-added processing and manufacturing enterprises, APEX said. It was conducted at the request of a regional team comprised of Minnesota Power, APEX, ALLETE Clean Energy, Great River Energy, and the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board (IRRRB). TSS Consultants (TSS), of Rancho Cordova, Calif., performed the analysis and addressed key factors including sustainable forest resources such as roundwood and biomass.
The latest study is among numerous studies that have confirmed there is significant opportunity to increase sustainable regional timber harvest rates over and above those of the past decade.
A regional team focused on three key target market areas (TMAs) within northeast Minnesota and northwest Wisconsin. They represent a 75-mile radius and are considered economically viable for raw material haul distances.
“Our assessment confirmed that there are significant volumes of underutilized trees species within the three target market areas and these volumes are available on a sustainable long term basis” said TSS Chief Executive Tad Mason.
More than eight million acres of forests are certified as sustainably managed under the Forest Stewardship Council and/or the Sustainable Forestry Initiative programs.
APEX, Minnesota Power and other regional economic development partners have utilized the TSS analysis to develop an attraction and retention strategy and to cost-justify the business case for companies researching or conducting business in the region.
“This assessment strengthens our position that there is fiber available to promote additional growth for our current forest and paper industries and to support new development opportunities. The regional team will continue ongoing dialogue with policymakers to enhance the region’s competitiveness,” said Nancy Norr, Minnesota Power’s director of regional development.