Dear Network Friends,

Welcome to 2022! My New Year’s Resolution is to avoid looking at the headlines and instead seek out good news happening all around us.

There’s a lot of good news happening in our sector, beginning with a couple of bills introduced at the statehouse that could make a big difference for Vermont’s forest economy businesses. H.581 is an omnibus bill introduced by the House Rural Caucus that includes several items the industry has sought for a long time: Act 250 fixes, truck weight adjustments, and more. The bill stems from a months-long study tour coordinated by the Department of Forests, Parks, and Recreation for members of the Rural Caucus to learn about issues facing forest economy businesses. You can read a story about the legislation here, and read the full bill language here. I encourage you to reach out to your state representatives and let them know your thoughts on the bill.

An additional bill, H.566, which is also embedded in H.581, would direct the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund, in partnership with FPR, to facilitate a process to develop a roadmap for longer-range efforts that are needed to support Vermont’s forest economy. This bill would build on previous efforts, and give the forest and wood products industry a more prominent seat at the table when it comes to making future policy decisions and strategic public and private investments in our forest economy. The bill language is here, and commentary by one of the bill's sponsors can be found here.

Regardless of any legislation, our work continues to build the Vermont Forest Industry Network as a place where people and businesses across Vermont’s forest economy can come together to learn, improve, and strengthen the industry. The Network Steering Committee recently began planning the agenda for the 2022 Vermont Forest Industry Summit, June 9-10 at Burke Mountain Resort. The theme is Vermont’s Forest Future and will include several sessions related to building a stronger future for our forest economy. Our intent is for this to be an in-person Summit, and we expect registration will open by March 1.

Some exciting developments are happening on the mass timber front. The North East State Foresters Association, in partnership with UNH, have been working on a project to certify eastern hemlock for use in cross-laminated timber (CLT) projects. Hemlock from Cersosimo Lumber is being tested at a Smartlam plant in Alabama. Contact Charlie Levesque at INRS to get the latest. 

Meanwhile, for architects, designers, and builders wanting to learn more about 2021 changes to the International Building Code that will allow taller buildings constructed with wood, the ICC Building Safety Association of Vermont is offering a comprehensive, daylong webinar on March 15 (6 LUs or AIA, with HSW) to learn about the new codes and what they mean for building with mass timber. Click here to register

Some more exciting news: Northern Vermont University and Do North Co-Working are gearing up to launch their new forest and wood products business accelerator program. Supported by a Northern Borders Regional Commission grant, the 4-month accelerator will be open to up to 8-10 entrepreneurs who are developing a product or service focused in the forest or wood products industry, with a specific focus on technology that improves operations and developing new markets for low-grade wood. Click here to learn more.

And if you haven’t already, be sure to attend the Vermont Wood Works Council’s Annual Meeting, which will be held on Zoom Jan. 28. Head over to the VWWC website for details. The Vermont Forest Products Association will be holding its annual meeting February 26, also on Zoom. Visit their website for updates.

Despite the challenges we all are facing in these strange times, I’m hopeful that 2022 will bring new opportunities for our forest economy. 

Stay safe out there,