Wood fiber study will support new private sector investment
Minnesota Power, a division of ALLETE Inc., and its regional economic development partners, including the Area Partnership for Economic Expansion, Great River Energy, and the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board, have commissioned a study of northeastern Minnesota’s and northwestern Wisconsin’s available forest resources. TSS Consultants, a California-based natural resources consultant firm, is analyzing the wood fibersupply in three target market areas near Duluth, Grand Rapids, and Hoyt Lakes in Minnesota.
“Our analysis will review forest resource availability and cost estimates for harvest, collection, and transportation,” said Tad Mason, a 30-year expert in managing natural resources and CEO for TSS. “In addition to updating the resource inventory, we will also be advising area economic developers of existing commercial technologies as well as emerging technologies that have value-added processing or manufacturing capable of utilizing northern Minnesota’s forest-sourced feedstocks.”
Recent plant closures such as three regional Ainsworth plants and the Duluth Georgia Pacific hardboard plant have caused significant job loss and have substantially increased wood availability.
“The regional wood basket is attracting a lot of interest from industrial biochemical manufacturers,” said Nancy Norr, director of regional development for Minnesota Power. “The study results will be used to advance discussions with prospective emerging technology companies as well as inform existing firms considering expansion opportunities.”
Norr went on to say that the region’s forest landscape is productive, supporting a variety of commercial tree species. The region’s transportation infrastructure and highly-skilled labor force can support expanding the utilization of saw timber, pulpwood, and biomass.
The three-month study is expected to be completed in mid-June 2013.
Minnesota Power provides retail electric service within a 26,000 square-mile area in northeastern Minnesota to 144,000 customers and wholesale electric service to 16 municipalities.