The Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce, Springfield Public Schools and the City of Springfield have been focusing efforts around the intersect of commonly shared visions, goals, and challenges. That nexus where seamless public-private sector collaboration presents the greatest opportunity to advance favorable outcomes. While local in nature, the scope of work extends far beyond to a multitude of regional, state, and federal partnerships.
Rejuvenating the advanced wood product manufacturing industry is one around which collaborative efforts have near seamless potential. The work involves education attainment and workforce issues, state and federal policy, and cultivation of partnerships where commonly shared goals and challenges are just one conversation away from action.
Mayor Christine Lundberg has long advocated for research and development of advanced wood products, sustainable stewardship of natural resources, research and development of innovative technologies, and revitalization of advanced wood products manufacturing. Springfield Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Susan Rieke-Smith has actively embraced the participation of local businesses in K12 educational solutions as she and Vonnie Mikkelsen, Chamber President and CEO have begun to map out a business-education engagement plan.
This visionary leadership in action is driving real economic policy that leads to short-term and long-term impacts. From co-convening a business-education summit at which manufacturing businesses, natural resource and wood products industry leaders, and public officials explored together the building of a Natural Resources Career and Technical Education pathway in Springfield; to co-hosting a community tour and panel discussion for attendees to the International Mass Timber Conference in March; to establishing and positioning the business community’s direct engagement with and participation in local solutions around workforce and education attainment; your Chamber is making advocacy alongside education attainment and workforce a top economic development priority.
We know that an educated, skilled and trained workforce is required to expand the economy in Springfield. Teaching about wood technology in the schools in the form of forestry education including the timber industries, the biology of wood, wood behavior and wood processing techniques - all requiring STEAM skills, is an example of how wood resources can lead to real economic development. The Chamber is advocating for Springfield to be the natural home of timber resources in Oregon. Attracting industry that will offer high paying jobs and promote economic development is key and Springfield and with its long wood products history is a natural fit.
Within advanced manufacturing of wood products (and there are many), cross-laminated timber (CLT) and other advance wood product manufacturing, offers the opportunity to revitalize our forests and our rural economies. CLT is a wood panel typically consisting of three, five, or seven layers of dimension lumber oriented at right angles to one another and then glued to form structural panels with exceptional strength, dimensional stability, and rigidity. There are but three manufacturers of CLT in the nation and one is Oregon-based DR Johnson. The now under construction Hamlin Middle School in Springfield is the first school in the northwest to not only integrate cross-laminated timber into the construction of a school but also into curriculum and instruction. The intentional incorporation of cross-laminated timber along with other advanced design products, and an entire wing designed to support the study of Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math (STEAM) highlight the thoughtful and collaborative work (of the city, schools, and business) ensuring the building is more than a structure but also a teaching and learning tool.
Seamless collaborative public-private efforts like this are catching on across the country, but still more anomaly than the norm as we recently discovered upon hosting a Springfield community tour for the International Mass Timber Conference participants. “Sustainability is built on balancing the three legs of environment, economics and social needs. Finding that balance point is hard work and requires the commitment of all the players to achieving it. It appears the community of Springfield through their mayor, the schools and the business community have done the hard work to make significant progress and their efforts can serve as a model for others.ˮ Dave Atkins, Hamlin middle School tour panel, president and CEO of Treesource.org.
The City of Springfield recently hosted a Federal Forest Policy Strategy meeting to develop strategic policy priorities ahead of this month’s United Front meetings in Washington DC. (United Front, now in its 31st year includes a delegation of local partner organizations advocating in unison for resources and attention to priorities within the Metro area.) At the table were business owners, industry leaders, educational institutes, elected officials, and public agency employees from local, county and state agencies all there to identify federal policy priorities that will impact our advanced wood products industry. Certifications, regulations, construction and building codes, sustainable raw material supply, workforce development, infrastructure needs, trade and investments were all on the table. Clear differences of perspective, expertise, knowledge and experience made for a well-rounded and robust dialogue. Most encouraging, at the end of the meeting a consolidated agreement around top policy issues was outlined and ready for advancement to our federal bureaus and elected officials. Again, there exists a nexus of public-private interests. We have only to listen, talk, and look for it through our seamless, collaborative partnerships.
Your Chamber’s focus on legislative advocacy, seamless, collaborative partnerships, education attainment and workforce fall directly in line with those of revitalization of our region’s targeted industries, one of those being sustainable timber harvests and advanced wood products manufacturing. We’re committed to the efforts of our partner agencies who share our vision for business and economic development.