Oregon Mass Timber Coalition lands $41M to boost forest products industry

Oregon Mass Timber Coalition lands $41M to boost forest products industry

By:  Demi Lawrence

The Oregon Mass Timber Coalition has been awarded $41.4 million in federal grants to modernize and boost the forest products industry in Oregon.

The money comes from the Build Back Better Regional Challenge, which is funded through President Joe Biden's American Rescue Plan. The capital is designed to catalyze Oregon's mass timber industry, which took root a decade ago.

More than $16 million of the funds are on their way to the University of Oregon while $8 million is going to to Oregon State University researchers. The universities jointly operate the TallWood Design Institute.

Of the UO funds, $14.6 million will go toward the Oregon Acoustic Research Laboratory, which will be a mass timber innovation hub at the Port of Portland's marine Terminal 6, and $2 million will go towards affordable housing prototyping using mass timber.

Mass timber products include cross-laminated timber (CLT), mass plywood panels (MPP) and glue-laminated timber (glulam). They are made by fastening pieces of wood together to create strong panels and beams. The products have gained popularity in the last decade as a sustainable building-material alternative to steel and concrete.

One example is the 9-acre mass timber roof that is being installed at Portland International Airport. The mass plywood panels being used were supplied by Freres Engineered Wood, formerly known as Freres Lumber Co. Mass ply panels make up about 6% of the Lyons-based company's revenue.

Iain Macdonald, director of project partner TallWood Design Institute, said Business Oregon, another project partner, has fielded out of state and even international requests on locating mass timber manufacturing in the state, but a large obstacle has been labor supply. Along with creating the innovation hub, the funding will also help with efforts to expand the workforce, which could help mitigate that roadblock and benefit regional companies.

"We hope that that will remove some of the barriers to companies setting up shop in Oregon," Macdonald said.

In addition to the TallWood Design Institute and Business Oregon, other members of the Oregon Mass Timber Coalition are the Port of Portland, the Oregon Department of Forestry and the Department of Land Conservation. The coalition's mission is to generate economic development activity, including jobs, through sustainable wood products that are grown and manufactured in Oregon.

"This federal investment shows how Oregon continues leading the way in modernizing wood products, generating jobs and economic opportunities in communities statewide," Oregon Senator Ron Wyden said in a press release. "I'm gratified that the Oregon Mass Timber Coalition has earned these resources from the American Rescue Plan for fresh approaches to our state’s signature timber industry. And I’ll keep fighting for similar investments in Oregon to support these valuable new sources for jobs and building materials."

"Mass timber is an exciting innovation with huge untapped potential. Accelerating affordable housing production, providing good jobs, sequestering carbon, and restoring forest health will provide immense benefits for Oregonians as we seek to construct more energy efficient buildings for the future using all tools available to us," Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley said in a press release.

The Build Back Better Regional Challenge has awarded $1 billion in grants to 21 different projects across the country.