Today I would like to talk about the recent opening of a new university center to promote the forestry industry in Arkansas.
Agriculture is our state’s primary industry and lumber plays a vital role in our state’s economy. When we think of agriculture in the natural state, the first products that come to mind are usually rice, cotton, poultry, soybeans or livestock. But the forest industry is essential to our state’s economy and agricultural production.
Last week, I visited the University of Arkansas campus in Monticello for the grand opening of the Arkansas Center for Forest Business. The purpose of this center is to provide technical assistance in finding solutions to forest resource challenges, curricula and information on wood supply, market conditions and efficiency.
The logging industry contributes $6 billion to Arkansas’ economy. Our state is the most wood-dependent economy in the South and the third in the country. We are growing forests twice as fast as they are harvested, and we could double our wood production and continue to be a leader in forest sustainability.
The Center for Forest Business will provide a number of resources to the timber industry in Arkansas. Not only will the Center provide expanded educational opportunities for UA-Monticello, but it will also provide opportunities for larger economic development projects in southern Arkansas.
Companies like Drax and Highland Pellets have chosen to expand their operations in Arkansas because of our abundant and sustainable forest products. The Center for Forest Business will not only help our timber producers maximize their profits, but it will also help attract other businesses that use this resource.
But the Center for Forest Business won’t just benefit timber producers in southern Arkansas. Dean Peter MacKeith of the Fay Jones School of Architecture at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville has long had a vision for the entire state to work together to promote our state’s forest products. According to Dean MacKeith, the Center for Forest Business focuses on the economic and financial side of the timber industry, while the Anthony Timberlands Center in Fayetteville will focus on the development and promotion of forest products.
UA Monticello is home to Arkansas’ only forestry school and UA Fayetteville is home to our state’s only school of architecture. The two programs therefore harmonize naturally.
Our state does best when all corners of Arkansas work together to create economic success. The Center for Forest Business will not only benefit southern Arkansas lumber producers, it will benefit all Arkansans in the forest products supply chain.
Congratulations to Dean Michael Blazier of the UA Monticello College of Forestry, Agriculture and Natural Resources, and thank you for helping to maintain the natural state of Arkansas.
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