MARYLAND FORESTRY ECONOMIC ADJUSTMENT STRATEGY
Maryland supports one of the most diverse and prolific forest ecosystems in the United States. It stretches from the pine stands on the Eastern Shore, which is renowned for quality and density, to the Appalachian hardwoods of Western Maryland, which are recognized around the world as premier inputs for fine furniture and cabinetry. However, the industry is shrinking. This decline hits Maryland’s rural communities hard, where job loss and economic transition can be painful and difficult from which to recover. No markets equate to no management, and forest landowners across the state are losing the ability to sustainably manage their lands to meet their objectives.
In response to these difficulties, funding support was secured from the U.S. Department of Commerce's Economic Development Administration and our state and local funding partners for the Western Maryland RC&D Council to develop a Maryland Forestry Economic Adjustment Strategy (EAS).
The intent was for the EAS to serve as an action plan for recovery while establishing the community-level collaboration necessary to motivate change and increase investment in the state’s Opportunity Zones. MFA was a key partner in developing the EAS. The findings were published in October 2021, and recommendations were made for implementing the plan, which included the development of a more robust organization or council to begin significant efforts to achieve the goals. MFA is willing to take on the challenge; however, until now, we have been hampered by a lack of resources and staffing.
Recognizing the need for early successes to engender continued interest and commitment toward the implementation of the strategies,
the EAS identified achievable actions that can be pursued immediately. The plan cites the following 9 initiatives and goes into further detail by outlining 53 actions.
1. INCREASE KNOWLEDGE OF THE PUBLIC AND POLICYMAKERS ABOUT THE FOREST INDUSTRY
2. FOSTER A MORE SUPPORTIVE STATE AND LOCAL POLICY ENVIRONMENT
3. IMPROVE SUPPLY-CHAIN COORDINATION
4. EXPAND THE USE OF RENEWABLE BIOMASS ENERGY
5. ENHANCE MARYLAND’S FOREST PRODUCT INDUSTRY’S EXPORT COMPETITIVENESS
6. SUPPORT ENTREPRENEURIAL SUCCESS FOR WOOD PRODUCTS BUSINESSES
7. IMPROVE THE ADOPTION OF TECHNOLOGY AND INNOVATIVE PRACTICES
8. EXPAND DOMESTIC MARKETING OPPORTUNITIES
9. CREATE A WORKFORCE FOR THE FUTURE
Strategic Plans are commonly developed by a single entity, which simplifies implementation. However, this EAS is tricky because it involves specific actions from groups that are disparate and disconnected. MFA is the only organization that has the ability to effectively collaborate, communicate, and coordinate to put the plan into action because of our existing relationships with government agencies, industry, economic development partners, and other organizations. While the EAS will serve as the master plan for this project, the commitment of MFA and other partners will guarantee the sustainability of the project by securing multiple sources of funding, having an adaptable approach, and integrating into existing systems garnered by the community and political support.
With funding received from the Rural Maryland Council and The Maryland Department of Commerce, MFA now has the resources to begin leading the charge to ensure the key opportunities within the forest products sector that the project team identified are implemented. Sufficient resources and investment in coordination across the supply chain will unlock the benefits of well-managed forests to our rural and urban communities. Funds will be used to facilitate meetings, tours, roundtables, and publications that will begin to advance the EAS.