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March 18, 2019

Study sees potential for area to profit from new type of wood construction

Business North

Minnesota is positioned well to take advantage of a new manufacturing method utilizing timber, according to a recently completed study entitled “The Economic Feasibility of Mass Timber Manufacturing.”

The manufacturing method was first developed in Europe and incorporates cross-laminated timber (CLT) in a wood panel system. They are made up of several layers of dimension lumber stacked in alternating directions, bonded with structural adhesives and pressed to form a solid, rectangular panel. Their strength, dimensional stability and rigidity allow them to be prefabricated and used in multi-level construction not typically suitable for wood.

The study, commissioned by the Area Partnership for Economic Expansion (APEX), concludes there is a strong commercial market, accessibility to the supply chain and opportunities for economic impact.

“We have a long history as a wood products economy with a highly-skilled workforce that is positioned to embrace and support this exciting building technology,”APEX President and CEO Brian Hanson said Monday in announcing the study, which was conducted by the UMD Bureau of Business and Economic Research (BBER), the Center of Economic Development (CED) and the Labovitz School of Business and Economics.  They concluded the process has great potential for development in the Arrowhead region.

Benefits for commercial construction include ease of assembly, durability, competitive cost, reduced the carbon footprint and thermal performance.

The study also examined Minnesota’s capacity to build a mass timber manufacturing facility in the Arrowhead. Study results show that building a mid-sized manufacturing facility in northern Minnesota would bring 50 new direct jobs, $11.7 million in industry sales, $6.2 million in labor income and 45 new indirect jobs for a total output of $20.3 million.

Every mass timber manufacturing job in the state of Minnesota would support 0.9 jobs in related industries, potentially creating a total of 45 new jobs.

“Minnesota has incredible potential to grow our secondary wood products sector to include mass timber manufacturing,” said Tamara Lowney, president of the Itasca Economic Development Corporation (IEDC). “This important study answered the key question, “is there access to lumber that meets the specifications required by mass timber?”with a solid ‘yes.’ We are fortunate to have that supply in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan and from our Canadian neighbors to the north.”

Lowney and several regional partners will be sharing study results at the upcoming International Mass Timber Conference in Portland, Ore. The full study can be found by clicking here.

The study was funded by several regional partners, including the Blandin Foundation, IRRR, Minnesota Power an ALLETE Company, Great River Energy, IEDC and APEX.