Wis. forest coalition describes key components of big grant application

Group representative called it a “once in a generation opportunity”

MADISON, Wis. – As a Wisconsin forest group’s big grant application closes in on a March 15 deadline for submission, two leaders of the group described its major components to the Wisconsin Council on Forestry meeting on January 12. The Wisconsin application is one of 60 finalists for a grant that could range from $50 million to $100 million.

There are expected to be 20-30 of the applications funded. There were originally over 600 applications in the competitive process. This grant program was funded as part of the infrastructure bill that was passed by Congress and signed by President Biden in November.

Paul Fowler of the Sustainable Research Institute at University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point called the potential grant a “once in a generation opportunity” for the forest products industry and Northern and Central Wisconsin. Fowler and Stacey Johnson of the Wisconsin Paper Council took the lead in drafting the summary application. The application has received letters of support from 69 organizations, including state government, labor unions and businesses and tribal organizations.

The application described seven key components of the overall program, which is called the “Wisconsin Forest Products Cluster.” They are:

* A research and innovation center at UW–Stevens Point.

* A data center with actionable information about a range of new technologies in fields like mass timber, carbon trading and new polymers useful in paper and other innovative products.

* Recovered and recycled fiber advancement.

* Market transformations for maple wood for construction products and wood pulp.

* A new training and apprentice program at Mid-State Technical College.

* Innovation in high-performance paper and packaging.

* New production capabilities for a tribal sawmill.

If the grant process is successful, it will require matching funding from the state of Wisconsin, the private sector, the city of Stevens Point and others.

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