Montana’s wood products industry gets federal help to boost jobs - TAI News
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The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced on May 14 that it had approved $5 million to be invested in eight projects proposed by wood products and wood energy companies in Montana.

The funds are a portion of $74 million in such grants being sent to 41 states and American Samoa.

“These investments will support good paying jobs for families and communities. It will increase the economy’s capacity to manufacture wood products. In turn, sustainably sourcing the wood used to manufacture these products will make our forests healthier and reduce the threat of catastrophic wildfires,” Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Xochitl Torres Small said in a statement.

Grants will be used for projects that will increase efficiency in processing facilities and sawmills, for housing projects that use mass timber, and for the conversion of school heating systems to sustainable biomass boilers.

The companies and organizations in Montana that will receive funds are Kanduch Logging, Montana Technology Enterprise Center, Panhandle Forest Products, California Hotwood, Panhandle Forest Products, SmartLam, Stillwater Post and Pole, and Sun Mountain Lumber.

The money comes from the department’s Wood Innovations Grants and Wood Products Infrastructure Assistance programs, which received funding from the 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act.

Both laws were supported by Democratic Sen. Jon Tester but were opposed by the Republican members of Montana’s congressional delegation in office at the time, Sen. Steve Daines and Rep. Matt Rosendale.

“A strong timber industry is critical for the strength of our rural economies and the resiliency of our forests,” Tester said in a 2023 statement announcing a previous round of wood investments. Nine Montana projects were awarded grants at that time.

The boost to Montana’s wood products industry comes on the heels of recent business closures.

In March, Pyramid Mountain Lumber in Seeley Lake shut down after operating in the state for 75 years. That same month, Roseburg Forest Products announced that it would be shutting down its particleboard plant in Missoula.

Julia Altemus, executive director of the Montana Wood Products Association, told NonStop Local that the closures were devastating.

“It’s like we had an earthquake and then we have another earthquake and we’re all going to be feeling the aftershock for quite a while,” Altemus told the outlet. According to Altemus, 36 timber mills have closed in Montana since 1990.

According to data compiled by the University of Montana’s Forest Industry Research Program, as of 2022 an estimated 7,800 Montana residents were employed in the state’s forest industry, down from 10,006 in 2004.

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