A 16-county bi-state region, the Pacific Northwest IMCP region includes 130 urban, suburban, and rural communities stretching from southwest Washington (near Vancouver) to south of Eugene, Oregon. The region has a strong workforce, historic roots in the timber industry, supportive state and local government partners, and key links to university research institutions. The Pacific Northwest Manufacturing Partnership (PNMP) has identified advanced materials sciences as its KTS focus, with advanced wood products and cross laminated timber (CLT) as the catalytic project area, to introduce innovation into a long-standing industry. PNCP is setting its sights on developing and marketing environmentally friendly products to meet the growing demand for LEED-certified construction. To solidify the partnership needed to meet this objective, Oregon Governor Kate Brown signed legislation April 1 authorizing the PNCP Advisory Committee to oversee the IMCP effort. A similar bill is pending in the Washington legislature.
PNMP has fashioned an exciting opportunity to build on a traditional industry – wood products – and modernize it for the 21st century. As both technologies and demands in the wood products industry evolve, the inherent strengths of the PNMP region put it in a strong position to take advantage of emerging CLT markets. As the proposal notes “designation as a manufacturing community is not just a label. It will support PNMP’s catalytic launch” as the coordinating point needed to lead the advancement of this industry; it is seen as a key tool to advance economic prosperity in the region. The region has articulated an opportunity with CLT — green building construction is driving the use of new types of wood products, but currently no production of structural CLT is occurring in the US. The timber industry in Oregon and Washington is well positioned to orient itself to meet this market demand, and compete effectively with foreign manufacturers in these emerging markets.
Workforce and Training: A key PNMP goal is to recast and reshape generational perceptions of and interest in manufacturing sector jobs; opportunities for workforce development in the CLT industry are promising. To this end, the PNMP is building on its existing network and resources to collaborate with communities, universities, and technical institutes and other partners to establish and advance programs needed to support CLT workforce development. As part of its strategy, PNMP partners plan to develop a “manufacturing-ready certification” program that targets wood products manufacturing, among other sectors; 2015 will also see the launch of a “sector pathways” program aimed at youth disconnected from traditional education systems, and an eLearning initiative to expand regional training capacity.
Supplier Networks: As CLT markets develop, PNMP intends to increase buyer and supplier network connectivity across all advanced manufacturing industries. Key partners include Business Oregon, the Portland Development Commission, and trade associations, such as Manufacturing 21, who are expanding profiles of industry and technology companies in the Pacific Northwest, and working to build local industry supply chain knowledge in the advanced wood products, among other sectors.
Research and Innovation: The University of Oregon and Oregon State University are actively collaborating in developing state-of-the-art programs in advanced wood products manufacturing design; this builds on those institutions’ recognized expertise in sustainable architecture and forestry projects. Existing state “signature research centers” will support research and innovation by connecting companies to lab networks, connecting start-up companies with university researchers, and offering access to existing accelerators and incubators, to enhance opportunities to move companies to post-prototyping.
Infrastructure and Site Development: Repurposing closed lumber mill sites for CLT is an opportunity to efficiently reuse industrial legacy sites in rural areas, enhancing existing infrastructure for new development and investment. In 2015, Washington will be updating its regional land inventory to align with Business Oregon’s industrial lands study, resulting in a comparable and comprehensive listing of developed ready sites suitable for manufacturing. These areas will be able to take advantage of the West Coast Infrastructure Exchange, intended as a vehicle to energize public-private financing, as it provides a platform for leveraging a region-wide pipeline of integrated investments.
Trade and Investment: By increasing CLT production capacity, PNMP intends to shift the international focus from needing to import the wood products to producing them locally – and then exporting them from the region. In 2012, wood products exports totaled nearly $526 million. The greater Portland area has launched a global trade and investment plan to boost exports and foreign direct investment; working with Business Oregon and other partners, developing a strong CLT industry will enhance the PNMP region’ reputation as an export center of sustainable development around the world.
Operational Improvement and Capital Access: Many Oregon and Washington manufacturers have adopted advanced process approaches, such as lean manufacturing, and the PNMP will work with regional organizations such as the Oregon Growth Board (OGB) to promote deeper penetration among smaller companies; OGB was established to invest and manage funds for the purpose of investing in start-ups and closing capital gaps; the state provided $40 million to OGB during the 2013-15 biennium to assist a range of early and growth stage companies including those in the forest products industries.
Led by Business Oregon, that state’s principal economic development agency, PNCP links together key research, work force, and public and non-profit partners, governed by an organizational charter and who have made resource commitments to IMCP, across two states:
Workforce and higher education institutions: Oregon State University/Office for Commercialization and Corporate Development, Oregon Center of Excellence for Advanced Wood Products Manufacturing and Design, Portland State University, SW Washington Workforce Development Council, Workforce Investment Council of Clackamas County, Worksystems Inc.;
Research: Oregon MEP, Oregon Nanoscience & Microtechnologies Institute, Oregon BEST;
Infrastructure/Site Development: Oregon Business Development Department, Salem brownfields program;
Economic development: Columbia River ED Council, Corvallis Benton County ED, Greater Portland Inc., Mid-Willamette Valley COG.