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Arkansas Center for Forest Business Supports Timber and Forest Products Industry in The Natural State

 October 03, 2022

An important new resource for the timber industry in Arkansas – the Arkansas Center for Forest Business – is now officially open.

On September 29, university officials, state and local leaders, and community members gathered on the campus of the University of Arkansas at Monticello for a ribbon-cutting ceremony to mark the official opening of the facility. Gov. Asa Hutchinson served as the keynote speaker, breaking a ceremonial log that revealed the new center’s logo inside, for the event.

The Arkansas Center for Forest Business is a state-of-the-art hub for forestry in Arkansas, providing technical assistance, educational programs for university and graduate students, and information on timber supply, forest products markets and operational efficiency. The center is part of the University of Arkansas at Monticello’s College of Forestry, Agriculture & Natural Resources, the only school for forestry in the State of Arkansas.

The new center will provide a range of educational opportunities and resources for industry partners and timber companies, according to Dr. Matthew Pelkki, the George H. Clippert Endowed Chair of Forestry at the University of Arkansas at Monticello and the Director of the Arkansas Center for Forest Business.

Educational opportunities include the development of a certificate program for forest business at the graduate level, as well as a Master’s degree in forest business that will be the first program of its kind in the country. Pelkki also highlighted the center’s forest landowner education efforts, which it partners on with agencies in Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas.

“Our goal is sustainable forests, and what we’re looking at sustaining is rural communities, and we’re looking at sustaining this economy,” said Pelkki. “One of our key values is listening, and I’m looking forward to continuing that process as we listen to the needs of the people of the State of Arkansas, and we listen to our forests.”

The timber and forest products industry is a major part of Arkansas’ economy. Fifty-seven percent of the state’s total land area is covered by approximately 19 million acres of forestland.

Arkansas ranks third in the United States in terms of the contribution that the timber industry makes to the state’s gross domestic product and ranks first in the Southeast United States. The Arkansas Center for Forest Business will play a significant role in supporting this vital industry.

“When we think about the forests in Arkansas, they’re extremely invaluable to the economy,” said Dr. Michael Blazier, dean of UAM’s College of Forestry, Agriculture and Natural Resources and the Director of the Arkansas Forest Resources Center of the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture. “They contribute about $16 billion annually to the Arkansas economy. That’s $6 billion in traditional forest products output and another $10 billion in value of what they bring from hunting, fishing and recreation. People from all over the country come to The Natural State to enjoy its landscape, and forests are integral to that. It’s not just a contribution to the economy. It’s a contribution to the quality of life for everybody in Arkansas to have healthy forests.”

Part of the Center for Forest Business’ mission is to improve business practices in forestry and enhance Arkansas forests’ economic competitiveness. Arkansas has made strides in increasing its competitiveness in recent years, adding more forestland – the state has added enough new forests to fill the entire state of Delaware with forestland.

“The Center will be here to enhance all parts of the forestry sector of the State of Arkansas,” Blazer said. “Our Center personnel will have the expertise to provide the state with up-to-date reports of its timber supply. We can provide policy guidance on creating tax and regulatory conditions that foster the growth of the forest industry and forest health. We can explore the best ways to market and increase the consumption of new products like cross-laminated timber. We’re also going to be enhancing the workforce that serves forestry through our new postgraduate education options through logger training. We’re working with our technical campuses at UAM to facilitate that.”

Gov. Asa Hutchinson highlighted the Arkansas Center for Forest Business as a valuable resource that will bolster the state’s economy by creating new economic opportunities in the region.

“This Center for Forest Business will do more than simply allow us to preserve our forests and to enjoy them forever,” Gov. Asa Hutchinson said. “It will create jobs, it will increase incomes, and it will strengthen our communities in south Arkansas.”

“In the last years, I have placed a priority on forestry and the development of that industry in our state because I recognize it as an economic driver and an important part of our Natural State.”

To learn more about the timber industry in Arkansas, download the Arkansas Timber Industry Report and sign up for AEDC’s quarterly Timber Newsletter to stay up to date with the latest industry trends.