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California Hardwoods Provide Economic Development Opportunities

The Issue

California hardwoods are an underutilized natural resource. California is a major consumer of hardwood lumber (20 percent of nation’s production) but the hardwood lumber production industry in the state is almost non-existent; this is in spite of a sizable hardwood tree resource (12 billion cubic feet of timber growing stock). The economic viability of a native hardwood lumber industry depends on a thorough understanding of the lumber recovery and grade yield expected from the resource and a solid knowledge of wood properties and manufacturing characteristics. The focus of this effort is to encourage a sustainable California hardwood industry by identifying basic industry needs, raising the awareness of the potential for value-added products, developing good manufacturing practices, and providing technical assistance.

What Has ANR Done?

The ANR wood resources group analyzed the structure of the existing hardwood industry in California, identified the needs of the industry to sustain growth, studied the properties and unique characteristics of native hardwoods, and through research developed recommended manufacturing techniques. Direct technical assistance for small businesses and a series of processing workshops were used to deliver this information throughout the state.

Three regional meetings were conducted with the primary stakeholders and other interested parties. Research and training needs were assessed by meeting with collaborators and by conducting a formal survey of the existing and potential hardwood industry in the state. The information obtained was used to identify gaps in knowledge, design the research effort, and develop training materials.

The Payoff

Hardwood research improves bottom line

This project clearly demonstrated that utilization of some of the native California hardwood species has potential to create new jobs. Presentations to forest product industry representatives, small businesses, and entrepreneur clientele sparked interest in new ventures. This led to a 5-fold measured increase in hardwood lumber production and a 500 percent increase in small businesses working with this hardwood resource over the past four years.

The project was instrumental in cutting processing costs by 40 percent and dramatically increasing production in two new enterprises. In addition, the results were directly responsible for best practices being implemented in a hardwood processing demonstration facility. By reducing losses caused by manufacturing defects these recommendations are directly responsible for a savings of $2 million per year in a developing industry.

The workshops and technical assistance efforts consistently receive excellent reviews by participants and peers, earning the UC Forest Products Lab the reputation of the leading source for technical information/advice in hardwood processing. The delivery of technical information to more than 200 clients was responsible for increased efficiency in the production of hardwood lumber in California and the recognition that proper practices must be followed to succeed. Training was directly responsible for reducing manufacturing waste and lowering manufacturing costs at a new hardwood business by 20 percent, a savings of $1 million per year. As new businesses are developed, the results of this project have the potential to create hundreds of new jobs in the depressed northern California economic regions. This project is expected to lead to the development of a sustainable hardwood lumber industry in northern California that meets environmental criteria for “green” certification.


John Shelly, CE Advisor -- Woody Biomass
UC Berkeley - Richmond Field Station
1301 South 46th Street
Richmond, California 94804
Phone: 510-231-9414
Email: john.shelly@nature.berkeley.edu