The Governor’s 2013 Forest Products Summit, held in downtown Lansing last week, brought together about 150 representatives from industry, government, the financial sector and academia to stimulate conversations for growing the state’s forest products industry.
Plans for the summit emerged from Gov. Rick Snyder’s Special Message on Energy and the Environment last fall, which included focus on improving rural economies. The timber industry, which generates $14 billion annually and directly employs 26,000 Michiganders, has the opportunity to lead in this area while continuing to sustainably manage Michigan’s world-class natural resources.
Gov. Snyder addressed participants with optimism, enthusiasm and a reminder that in this current era of innovation, the summit was just the beginning of strengthening this vital industry.
Gov. Snyder also encouraged the group to take a strategic and collaborative approach to reinvention. He highlighted three questions that he said needed to be addressed, not just for the summit, but in the longer term:
What are the export opportunities?
What value-added processes are the best?
What research and development are we doing?
J.R. Richardson, chair of the Natural Resources Commission and the Timber Advisory Council (TAC), said Gov. Snyder’s interest in holding the summit illustrates his commitment to the forest products industry, especially in making it a part of his mission to reinvent the state.
“Reinventing this industry will pay dividends to all of Michigan in the future,” Richardson said. “This event will set the stage for the future of this industry and for the support of land-based industries in Michigan.”
Following presentations, panel discussions and breakout work-group sessions, Bill O’Neill, chief of the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Forest Resources Division, reminded attendees that in order to be successful, the thoughtful discussions must continue beyond the summit.
“This event is just the start of an opportunity to highlight Michigan’s forest products economy in a brand new way,” said O’Neill, who also serves as state forester. “This is about more than just making a profit. Environmental stewardship is just as important as economic advancement.
“We’ve done a good job at restoring Michigan’s forest resources,” O’Neill added. “With the ideas generated at the summit, we’ll continue to do a good job at balancing the protection of special places with strengthening the forest industry.”
The governor-appointed TAC will use the five-year goals it endorsed prior to the summit to move forward with the ideas and opportunities discussed. The goals included:
Increasing the economic impact of the timber industry on state and regional economies from $14 billion in 2010 to $20 billion;
Increasing the export of value-added timber products by 50 percent;
Increasing forest products-related careers by 10 percent;
Supporting existing industry; and
Encouraging regionally based industry development.
DNR Director Keith Creagh closed the summit by telling attendees that the Timber Advisory Council will be tasked with looking at the outcomes and focusing on the opportunities and impediments to the growth of the forest products industry in Michigan. He added that change is dependent on the key industry players following through with the strategies discussed at the summit.
“This is an exciting start,” Creagh said. “The next steps include charging the TAC to put form and structure to the ideas presented at the summit. We will continue to assure the long-term sustainability of this resource for all the people of Michigan.”
For more information about plans and activities for managing Michigan’s state forest system, visit www.michigan.gov/forestplan.
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