By Lauren Redmore
One of the biggest barriers facing improved management of California’s forests is the general scarcity of small forestry businesses to service landscape needs for fuels reduction and other wildfire preventative measures.
Once a thriving sector across the state, small forestry businesses took a hit in the 1990s as capacity consolidated towards industrial, often land-owning, forestry businesses, with repercussions lasting through today.
As the state seeks to retool its forestry economy to support wildfire-resilient working forests, the small forestry business gap remains one of the biggest challenges to achieve ecologically-managed and socially-equitable landscapes.
For example, in the aftermath of the Dixie fire, much of the post-fire clean-up and rehabilitation work goes to out-of-state businesses that give jobs to out-of-state workers.
Small, local businesses have a hard time competing for contracts with larger out-of-state businesses that are not required to meet all of California’s standards.
To reinvest in rural forested economies, and to ensure that fuels reduction work can happen in a timely manner before the next catastrophic wildfire, small, local forestry businesses must be considered as essential infrastructure.
The Sierra Institute for Community and Environment, with funding from the Sierra Nevada Conservancy and support from the Sierra Small Business Development Center, is hosting a four month-long workshop series to support small forestry business entrepreneurs across the Sierra.
Kristin York and Paul Bozzo with the Sierra Small Business Development Council facilitated a session on pitch decks
The Sierra Forest Entrepreneurs program hosted two virtual workshops in August and September. Last Friday, Sierra Institute hosted an all-day workshop—the first in-person event for the Institute in nearly two years.
Twenty-one Sierra Forest Entrepreneurs met in Taylorsville to discuss and learn about business investment and strategic growth.
The Sierra Small Business Development Center presented on pitch deck creation and pitching your business to prospective investors.
Following was a loans and grants panel with brief introductions to funding options from Go-Biz, Rural Community Assistance Corps, Sierra Nevada Conservancy, CalFire, and Sierra Institute, including a question-and-answer session.
Loans and grants panel with presenters from Go-Biz, RCAC, SNC, CalFire, and Sierra Institute
Following lunch, participants were engaged in a lively session led by TimberAge System’s Kyle Hanson and Andrew Hawk. This session focused on problem identification, problem solving, and business streamlining, with examples from TimberAge’s own growth trajectory and management.
Watch this video that TimberAge made for SFE participants
TimberAge System’s Andy Hawk leading a small group on problem identification and problem solving techniques
Closing out the day, participants toured Sierra Institute’s Indian Valley Wood Product’s Campus at Crescent Mills where a partnership with J&C Enterprises, supported by funding from the Sierra Nevada Conservancy, has led to the purchase and installation of a small sawmill to process black timber locally to support rebuilding efforts following the Dixie fire.
Sierra Forest Entrepreneurs tour the Indian Valley Wood Products Campus where a newly acquired small sawmill will be integrated with wider efforts for post-fire recovery and biomass utilization
The workshop ended with a tour of the state’s first all-cross laminated timber building that houses a biomass boiler to heat the county’s health and human services building.
Through innovations in woody biomass utilization and in supporting small-scale forestry businesses across the region, the Sierra Institute has a vision to reinvest in and retool rural forested economies.
Community wildfire resiliency and the future of California depend on it!
A tour inside Quincy’s Health and Human Services biomass boiler heater housed in the state’s first all-cross laminated timber building
This Sierra Institute project was completed in 2018. Learn more here.
Family photo with workshop participants, hosts, and presenters at the Indian Valley Wood Products Campus