Indiana exports a lot of wood to other countries, but it wants to make more wood products — like cabinets and doors. The state is working on a strategy to grow the hardwoods industry.
Connie Neininger is the director of economic development for the Indiana State Department of Agriculture. She says Indiana is number one in wood office furniture production, but companies like that are facing a lot of competition from industries overseas. Meanwhile, Neininger says foreign demand for raw lumber is increasing.
“A lot of people say they have to do this to stay in business, but they really do wish the jobs could remain here in the U.S. and in Indiana specifically,” she says.
Instead of shipping its lumber, Neininger says the state could use it to make more products in-house.
“It helps those rural communities where these types of companies are located to grow and be sustainable,” she says.
State leaders also hope this will lead to more high-paying jobs for Hoosiers, but Neininger says finding qualified workers could be a challenge. She says the state will need to help train that workforce.
Director of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources’ forestry division, John Seifert, says the recession took it’s toll on the hardwoods industry and the state hopes to bring some of those businesses back.
Seifert says the strategy is unlikely to lead to more logging in the state.
With the help of Purdue University Extension, the state is expected to come out with a draft of its hardwoods plan next month.
Indiana Environmental reporting is supported by the Environmental Resilience Institute, an Indiana University Grand Challenge project developing Indiana-specific projections and informed responses to problems of environmental change.