The prospects of Oregon workers got a boost this month when the U.S. Economic Development Administration awarded a $41.4 million grant to the Oregon Mass Timber Coalition. The grant, funded by the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), will be used to create living-wage jobs in Oregon communities recovering from the coronavirus pandemic.
"We’re a proud partner on this grant, and we’re thrilled to work with our network of community-based organizations to ensure that emergent opportunities in this growing industry are available to diverse communities,” said Andrew McGough executive director of Worksystems Inc., the workforce investment board serving Multnomah and Washington counties.
The Oregon Mass Timber Coalition (OMTC) is a group of private-sector firms, nonprofit organizations, universities, and government agencies dedicated to advancing and growing the state’s mass-timber industry. Worksystems Inc. will play an integral role in coordinating the education, training, and support services that workers need to land jobs in this emerging industry, McGough said.
“Mass timber” refers to construction materials made from wood and wood products which can be used to make structures that are far stronger than traditional light-frame wood buildings – like typical single-family homes – as well as more sustainable and more energy-efficient, according to the OMTC. Mass-timber products also allow for faster construction times, and benefit from modern manufacturing processes.
The grant was awarded under the auspices of the Build Back Better Regional Challenge, a signature initiative of the ARPA. The OMTC was one of 21 coalitions selected from among more than 500 applicants. In addition to its workforce training component, the grant will fund a new manufacturing facility at the Port of Portland’s Terminal 2 on the Willamette River, as well as new research facilities at Oregon State University and the University of Oregon. It will also provide funds for forest restoration projects in the Willamette National Forest, along with funding for research and development to modernize forest restoration practices, including improved forest inventory mapping, enhanced forest worker health and safety, and efficiency within wood supply chain activities.
“I’d like to thank the Biden-Harris Administration and the U.S. Economic Development Administration for recognizing the incredible work being done by the Oregon Mass Timber Coalition,” said Oregon Gov. Kate Brown. “From the new roof for the Portland International Airport to housing materials, Oregon’s mass timber industry is at the cutting edge of sustainability and economic opportunity––helping to address the climate and housing crises while enhancing forest resiliency and creating jobs for people from rural communities, people with low incomes, and people of color.”
To learn more about mass timber and the Oregon Mass Timber Coalition, visit www.portofportland.com/masstimber. To learn more about Worksystems Inc. and job training opportunities in the Portland metro area, visit www.worksystems.org.