Forest Economy Initiative Helps Launch New Products, Spurs $14 Million Private Investment in Sector

Forest Economy Initiative Helps Launch New Products, Spurs $14 Million Private Investment in Sector

Funded Projects Support Market Demand for 8 Million Tons of Northern Forest Wood

GREENVILLE, S.C. – Mar. 21, 2024 – New products from a centuries-old industry are making their way to the marketplace. This is thanks to a five-year initiative designed to generate market demand for sustainably sourced wood from the Northern Forest of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and New York.

The Future Forest Economy Initiative (FFEI) funded 13 projects that generated substantial economic development opportunities within the region’s forest sector and in economically distressed rural communities across the area.

“The initiative succeeded by all measures,” said Joe Short, vice president of the Northern Forest Center. “What is inspiring is the innovative and viable new products and market development ideas proposed by the grantees and how they all contribute to strengthening the forest economy.”

The FFEI-funded projects benefitted 219 businesses across the forest supply chain, improved the quality of 1,500 jobs, leveraged more than $14 million in private investment into the forest economy and funded projects that support market demand for more than 8 million tons of wood from the region.

The initiative — a cooperative effort of the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA), U.S. Endowment for Forestry & Communities (the Endowment) and the Northern Forest Center (Center) — grew out of a congressional mandate to support the development of markets for wood products.

“We had specific investment objectives and these projects really hit the mark,” said Alicia Cramer, senior vice president of the Endowment. “They’ve produced new products, strengthened the supply chain, shown the viability and economic potential of new product ideas and reinforced the ability of area manufacturers to capitalize on new market opportunities.”

As a result of FFEI’s investments, the construction industry can now use structural round timber from Maine or buy certified cross-laminated timber made from the region’s softwoods. Businesses also have access to a small-scale fiberboard manufacturing line at the University of Maine during the research and development phase of creating new wood-fiber-based products.

FFEI supported every part of the forest economy supply chain. It increased certified wood supply by expanding master logger certification, promoted the reuse of old mills to attract private investment and educated millions of consumers about using wood heat instead of fossil fuels.

“The forest sector is crucial to the region’s economy and combating climate change,” said Short. “The data shows us that we make the greatest headway against climate change when we use forests for both storing carbon and producing renewable wood products. We are backing sustainably harvested wood products, which create market demand and incentivize forest conservation.”

For one of its first projects, the FFEI provided funding for the Town of Ashland, Maine, to build market demand for using nearly whole trees from sustainably managed Maine forests instead of steel and concrete in construction. The project has identified $8 million in potential sales for structural round timber. WholeTrees Structures of Madison, Wis., has opened a production facility in Ashland, aiming to create six to eight full-time positions this year and double that by 2026.

The initiative also funded market studies that showed promise for several new ventures. This includes manufacturing net-zero homes made primarily of wood products from Maine, using low-grade wood in textiles to displace petroleum-based material and using domestic wood on military vehicles in place of tropical species.

The FFEI grew out of a congressional mandate to support the development of markets for wood products. The EDA provided $3 million to fund the market-development initiative. The Center managed the five-year initiative and provided strategic support to help grantees expand their networks and develop connections critical to the success of their projects. The Endowment committed $300,000 toward the project and advanced payments to grantees to decrease the gap between project expenditures and reimbursement.

About The Northern Forest Center:
The Northern Forest Center is a regional innovation and investment partner creating rural vibrancy by connecting people and economy to the forested landscape.

About the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities:
The U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities is a not-for-profit public charity collaborating 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. To learn more about the Endowment, please visit our website at

Media Contacts:

For more information contact:
Joe Short, Vice President, Northern Forest Center, 603-491-2651,

Alicia Cramer, Senior Vice President, U.S. Endowment for Forestry & Communities, 205-792-8650,

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Rolling hills and cove forests in Jones Gap State ParkOverhead view of national forest and winding river