The Western North Carolina Forest Project, funded with a $1.97 million American Reinvestment and Recovery Act grant through the Southern Research Station (SRS), helped retain or create 164 jobs among 15 small businesses and organizations in Western North Carolina.
Now the Land-of-Sky Regional Council, the local administrator of the project, has received the 2012 Innovation Award from the National Association of Development Organizations in recognition of the forest project.
SRS awarded the funds to Land-of-Sky to create a cooperative marketing network for regional timber and nontimber forest products. Land-of-Sky, through a proposal process, awarded grants to small businesses and organizations in the area.
One recipient, the Boggs Collective received $98,000 to create a cooperative workshop, woodshed, woodworking school and virtual gallery.
Other grants went to companies building dry kilns or to train loggers to open old roads and trails in private forests. Other groups focused on food products found in forests, supporting local production of woodland herbs and herb products and marketing forest-based foord such as mushrooms and ramps.
“This has been a win-win partnership with Land-of-Sky and Western North Carolina communities,” said Susan Fox, SRS assistant director. “The forest industry here was severely impacted by the economy, and this project has led to 164 jobs for under- or unemployed forest producers.”