Vermont Forest Products Value Chain Investment Program
The Vermont Forest Products Value Chain Investment Program assists the state's forest products industry in creating and retaining quality jobs by providing business assistance, market development expertise, and network development along strategic points in multiple value chains. The goal is to encourage innovation and sector-wide relationships in order to enhance the economic competitiveness of the forest products industry in the region. In addition, the program will work to increase the use of regionally grown tree species in Vermont’s value added forest economy sector. This new initiative is a partnership between the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund (VSJF), the Northern Forest Center, and the Forestry Sub-Committee of the Working Lands Enterprise Board and based out of the VSJF.
Over the next three years, the VSJF and its partners will:
- Develop product value chains and the roadmaps to get there in Vermont’s furniture and solid wood products, construction and wood energy forest sub-sectors
- Provide 'deep dive' business coaching services to secondary wood manufacturers
- Host regional convenings of forest products stakeholders
- Develop a formal, multi-stakeholder Forest Products Network
- Initiate the development of a sector-based communications strategy that includes social and earned media components as well as messaging for Vermonters and visitors to Vermont that reframes the importance of the forest economy by making the connection between other emerging concerns such as climate change, energy security, small family businesses, local economies, and cultural heritage and broadens what people think of when they think about forestry.
A renewed effort to advance the forest sector: Through a robust, year-long forest products systems analysis, which was funded by Vermont’s Working Lands Enterprise Board (WLEB) -- utilizing the consulting services of Yellow Wood Associates -- numerous value chain opportunities and gaps were identified, including:
- Enhancing the Economic Value of Vermont’s Woodlands
- Improving the Marketing of Construction and Construction Materials
- Addressing Demand in Wood Energy Markets
- Expanding Markets for Furniture, Furniture Parts, and Solid Wood Products
The importance of forests: We depend on forests for their material and economic contributions—totaling $1.5 billion annually—from timber, veneer, pulpwood, firewood, chips and pellets, to maple syrup. And there are many non-monetized values and services forests provide such as water quality protection; flood control and resilience; wildlife habitat, biodiversity, and connectivity; as well as clean air and carbon sequestration. What’s more, our forests provide the natural infrastructure for our increasing and diversifying outdoor recreation economy and they—along with our farms and historic human settlement patterns—provide the scenic backdrop for our world-class tourism economy. Thus, Vermont’s forests are our unique competitive advantage; we cannot outsource the benefits and values they produce. Despite a historic tendency to take them for granted, we are utterly dependent on our forests.
Renewed effort to strengthen our forest economy: We see mounting evidence that Vermont’s forest economy is in trouble. Owing to many factors—from increased globalization and prohibitive costs of energy, labor and insurance to a shifting culture and various regulatory burdens—Vermont’s forest and wood products sector has been in a years-long decline. So that is why we’ve launched this new initiative with our partners —to implement a return to a thriving forest economy.
Vermont Forest & Wood Products Directory
Developed by the WLEB Forestry Sub-Committee, the Vermont Forest and Wood Products Directory aims to connect industry members to each other. It provides a visual representation of the types of businesses in the sector and their location around the state and also illustrates where there may be gaps in infrastructure.
What is a value chain?
An industry level value chain is a set of activities that a group of enterprises perform in order to deliver a valuable product or service to the market. It recognizes that in many cases, no one firm can manage the whole production process from the needed raw inputs, all the way through to selling the finished product. Key to effective value chains are the relationships among the people and businesses whose skills and contributions are most needed to produce a good or service valued by buyers in the market. Each participant in a value chain performs specific functions based on their core competencies, without which the chain could not operate effectively.
In addition, these business arrangements are distinguished by their commitment to transparency, collaborative business planning and exchange of market intelligence and business knowhow among chain partners, and their interest in developing business strategies and solutions that yield tangible benefits to each participant in the system. External factors that have contributed to the rise of forest-based value chain enterprises in recent years include the growing segmentation of the consumer market, escalating demand for specialized, highly differentiated wood products—even at higher price points—and the increasing appeal of forest-reated products that are produced in accordance with desired social or environmental standards.
The function that is most often missing is value chain coordination; individuals or organizations that hold the vision for the entire value chain while building the relationships among the partners that are required to make the value chain work. The Vermont Forest Products Value Chain Investment Program has been designed to serve this critically important value chain coordination function.