FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 1, 2021
CONTACT: Sylvia Plumb, Director of Marketing and Communications, 802.626.6459
NVU Awarded Nearly $1 Million Regional Forest Economy Partnership Grant to Reinvigorate Forest Products Industry in Northern Vermont and New Hampshire
Lyndonville, Vermont – Northern Vermont University (NVU) Center for Professional Studies was awarded a three-year Northern Border Regional Commission-Regional Forest Economy Partnership (RFEP) grant of nearly $1 million to establish the Do North Wood Product and Forestry Accelerator initiative in Lyndonville, Vermont.
Through this grant of $986,252, the forest products industry, a foundation industry in the tri-county (Caledonia, Essex, and Orleans) region of Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom and New Hampshire’s Coos County, will receive business-building education and resources to evolve and modernize, to create new jobs, skilled workers, and reinvigorate the industry.
“Continued support from the Northern Borders Regional Commission is another sign of NVU’s strength and bright future,” said NVU President Elaine Collins. “The forestry grant fits with the historic role NVU has played in forest-based programs, such as degrees focused on outdoor recreation and tourism, climate change science, fine woodworking and environmental and natural sciences. It will allow NVU to more directly support the forest industry and its workforce, and the benefits they both bring to our region.”
The RFEP award will fund a three-pronged initiative:
- Expand the existing Do North Coworking Space in Lyndonville to include a dedicated Wood Product and Forestry Accelerator Facility to meet the demand for shared physical space for forestry businesses and entrepreneurs to meet, work, and collaborate.
- Provide technical assistance to businesses in the forestry and recreation sector looking to grow and expand.
- Offer entrepreneurship and workforce development education coupled with career pathway development to re-train displaced forest economy workers, either in support of re-entry to the workforce in new industries or new roles within the industry.
The total cost of the Do North Wood Product and Forestry Accelerator initiative is $1,324,084, with matching funds and in-kind donations of $287,833 contributed by NVU, local, state, and federal partners, and a $50,000 grant from the Vermont Community Foundation awarded in support of the project.
The initiative builds upon NVU’s new Learning and Working Community model. Through the Learning and Working Community, NVU is developing partnerships with local businesses and organizations throughout northern Vermont to provide hands-on learning and working opportunities for students to help launch them on career pathways, as well as serve the adult workforce to ensure they have the practical skills for regional employment opportunities.
The Forestry Accelerator initiative will develop the kinds of entrepreneurship and workforce education opportunities that will directly support this industry. For example, a six-month Forest Product Boot Camp will combine education with mentorship to build businesses that address gaps in our regional wood products market. The Wood Product program manager will also work to identify and support the common needs of wood product companies, including holding monthly workshops covering a range of topics.
Whiteout Solutions, a successful forest management company, is an example of the industry and entrepreneurial growth the initiative will support. The company incubated and brought to scale its forest management drone software firm during its tenure at Do North Coworking, and increased from two to seven employees in two years.
“Entrepreneurs change the world, and at this moment in time we need them more than ever,” said Ann Nygard, director of the NVU Center for Professional Studies. “The success of the Do North Coworking model and its impact on area small businesses has so much potential. With the new Forest Product Accelerator program, we can continue to help grow the businesses to the next level right now, in addition to educating a workforce with the skills needed to support them in the future.”
The Regional Forest Economy Partnership was created to focus on innovative regional approaches to address the decline in forest-based economies.