Today I’d like to talk about the recent opening of a new academic center to promote the forest industry in Arkansas.
Agriculture is the leading industry in our state, and timber plays a critical role in our state’s economy. When you think of agriculture in the Natural State, the first commodities to come to mind are typically rice, cotton, poultry, soybeans, or cattle. But the forest industry is critical to our state’s economy and agricultural production.
Last week, I traveled to the campus of the University of Arkansas at Monticello for the grand opening of the Arkansas Center for Forest Business. The purpose of this Center is to provide technical assistance for solutions to forest resource challenges, degree programs, and information on timber supply, market conditions, and efficiency.
The forest industry accounts for $6 billion of the Arkansas economy. Our state is the most timber-dependent economy in the South and third most in the country. We are growing forests twice as fast as they’re being harvested, and we could double our timber production and still be a leader in forest sustainability.
The Center for Forest Business will provide a number of resources to the timber industry in Arkansas. Not only will the Center provide expanded educational opportunities at UA-Monticello, but it will also provide opportunities for greater economic development projects in South Arkansas.
Companies like Drax and Highland Pellets chose to expand their operations in Arkansas because of our abundant and sustainable forest products. The Center for Forest Business will not only help our timber producers maximize their profits, but it will also help attract additional businesses who utilize this resource.
But the Center for Forest Business will not just benefit timber producers in South Arkansas. Dean Peter MacKeith of the University of Arkansas Fay Jones School of Architecture in Fayetteville has long had the vision for the entire state to work together to promote our state’s forest products. According to Dean MacKeith, the Center for Forest Business focuses on the economics and the finance side of the timber industry, while the Anthony Timberlands Center in Fayetteville will focus on the development and promotion of forest products.
UA-Monticello is home to the only forestry school in Arkansas, and UA-Fayetteville is home to the only architecture school in our state, so the two programs together provide a natural fit.
Our state is more successful when all corners of Arkansas work together to create economic success. The Center for Forest Business will not just benefit timber producers in South Arkansas, it will benefit any Arkansan in the forest product supply chain.
Congratulations to Dean Michael Blazier of the UA-Monticello College of Forestry, Agriculture, and Natural Resources, and thank you for helping keep Arkansas the Natural State.