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

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

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

“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

“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.