FOREST Products & RENEWABLES
Ever since its founding in the 1860s as Missoula Mills, the city of Missoula has served as a regional hub for the forest products industry. Our history of land ethos has grown beyond trees to encompass renewable energy and new-product creation using eco-intelligent renewable processes and components. Today, our community is home to nationally respected forest management, science and business expertise as well as leading-edge renewable products manufacturers.
With our robust infrastructure and highly skilled, experienced workforce, Missoula is poised to lead the forest and renewable products industries into the future. That’s a big reason why the Northwest Advanced Renewables Alliance recently named Western Montana, with Missoula as the hub, as the first pilot community in a $40 million project to assess the business case for a regional wood-to-biofuel industry.
PARTNERSHIP IN ACTION
In 2012, the Northwest Advanced Renewables Alliance chose Missoula for a first-of-its-kind analysis of the wood-to-biojet business case. According to Arnie Didier, chief operating officer with the Forest Business Network, “They chose Western Montana because of the incredible amount of technical expertise in the university and business communities here and the involvement of Missoula Economic Partnership, the BitterRoot Economic Development District, Montana Community Development Corporation and the Montana World Trade Center.”
Each year, The University of Montana’s College of Forestry & Conservation produces a new crop of graduates, many of whom go on to become respected forestry managers and entrepreneurs. The college has earned nationwide respect for the quality of its programs, which were ranked third in the country behind Yale University and the University of Washington by the Faculty Scholarly Productivity Index 2007. Other complementary educational resources in the area include the energy technology program at UM’s Missoula College, the energy efficiency and alternatives program at Montana State University (Bozeman), chemistry and biochemistry programs at UM, the petroleum engineering program at Montana Tech (Butte) and the forestry program at Salish Kootenai College (Pablo).
In 2005, Montana adopted a state renewable energy portfolio standard that requires regulated utilities to purchase 10 percent of their annual electricity supply from renewable sources and increases the standard to 15 percent in 2015. To help encourage the growth and production of renewable energy, Montana and the federal government between them offer a diverse portfolio of more than 30 tax incentives, grants and loan programs; that’s in addition to programs through utilities.
And, it’s easy to move components in and finished products out. Missoula offers easy access to major highways such as Interstate 90 and Interstate 15 as well as ample rail service from Montana Rail Link, a FRA Class II regional railroad with more than 900 miles of track serving 100-plus stations in the states of Montana, Idaho and Washington. Commercial air service and nearby access to pipeline and refinery infrastructure further enhance our area’s connection to the broader marketplace.
Across our region, approximately 1 million acres of private industrial lands are Sustainable Forestry Initiative certified. Other area assets include state-of-the-art milling operations, a wide variety of lumber products, numerous companies engaged in products and activities across the forest supply chain, and the headquarters presence of the USDA Forest Service Region 1 and the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation’s Forestry Division.
Although the last three years’ timber harvests are the lowest since 1945, Montana’s timber harvest volume during 2011 was an estimated 348 million board feet, about the same as the estimate of 347 million board feet for 2010.
And development of new wood-using industries continues, with the recent opening of a wood chipping facility at the mill site in Bonner that will process lower-value timber suitable for pulp mills and biomass energy, and the start-up of firms converting wood into biobased products that can replace petroleum-derived chemicals.
For a partial sampling of local Resources, Companies and Workforce connections, please click to expand the sections and explore the links below.
A number of organizations and associations work to promote and enhance the forest products and renewables industries in Western Montana. They include:
USDA Forest Service — Missoula is home to the Region 1 headquarters as well as the Fire Science Lab, Technology Development Center, Smokejumper Center, Rocky Mountain Research Station and Woody Biomass Utilization program.
Montana Cleantech Alliance — a collaborative effort of the Montana World Trade Center, BitterRoot Economic Development District, the Montana Angel Network and the Montana Governor’s Office of Economic Development.
Project Learning Tree — work of the Montana State University Extension Forestry. (Missoula)
Montana Forest Council — a unit of the Montana Wood Products Association.
Missoula and the surrounding region are home to several industry-leading producers of renewable energy and products.
Algae AquaCulture Technology (AACT) — feeds mill residue, waste heat and carbon dioxide into engineered containers of algae, which then produce methane for power generation — leaving behind high-grade organic fertilizer as a byproduct. (Columbia Falls)
AlgEvolve — algae water remediation company, developing products with pulp mills for industrial waste water cleanup and recycling. (Corvallis)
Biomass Research and Development Initiative (BRDI) — systematic exploration of the development of forest-based feedstocks, biofuels and biobased products, with a particular emphasis on activated carbon and biochar. (U.S. Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Missoula)
Biomimicry Institute — promotes the study and imitation of nature’s remarkably efficient designs, bringing together scientists, engineers, architects and innovators who can use those models to create sustainable technologies. (Missoula)
Bioroot Energy — producer of a biomass-derived, liquid oxygenate fuel to power all types of gasoline and diesel engines. (Darby)
Blue Marble Biomaterials — chemical manufacturer producing food-grade extracts and fragrance components from used coffee grounds and other sustainable feedstocks. (Missoula)
F.H. Stoltze Land & Lumber — the oldest family-owned lumber company in Montana is moving forward with a 1.5 MWh combined heat and power project. (Columbia Falls)
Plum Creek Timber — the largest and most geographically diverse private landowner in the nation, with approximately 6.6 million acres in major timber producing regions of the United States. (Headquartered in Seattle, with offices in Missoula)
Rivertop Renewables — sugar-focused biorenewable company looking for alternative sugars such as cellulosic glucose. (Missoula)
Sustainable Lumber Co. – their products are produced from reclaimed, salvaged, and certified wood which is 100% sourced locally in Montana. All wood fiber not used in their product lines are donated for animal bedding and/or used as clean biomass energy to heat their facility. (Missoula/Gold Creek)
Located in a national wood basket, Missoula has developed a deep and broad force of skilled workers in fields relevant to forest products and renewables. As of 2011, forest industry employment in Montana totaled about 6,530 workers (including private sector foresters and loggers, primary and secondary wood product manufacturers, and forestry support activities). These skilled forestry professionals are in addition to the quality students trained in biochemistry, alternative energy and other relevant fields who graduate each year from our area colleges and universities.