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The Oregon Mass Timber Coalition is a winner of the Build Back Better challenge.

PMG PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE  - A roof of a new Port of Portland terminal is constructed of mass timber, an emerging timber industry that recently received a federal boost here in Oregon.
The Oregon Mass Timber Coalition is slated to receive $41.4 million in grants from the federal Economic Development Administration.

Mass timber is engineered high-value building material made from wood, with the potential to reduce carbon pollution while being more fire resistant and seismically resilient compared to other materials such as concrete and steel.

The funds going toward the Oregon Mass Timber Coalition are intended to use mass timber to accelerate affordable housing production, restore forest health and provide living-wage careers.

The earmarked funds were announced Sept. 7 by Oregon Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, as one of the 21 winners of the $1 billion American Rescue Plan Build Back Better Regional Challenge.

"Mass timber is an exciting innovation with huge untapped potential. Accelerating affordable housing production, providing good jobs, sequestering carbon, and restoring forest health will provide immense benefits for Oregonians as we seek to construct more energy efficient buildings for the future using all tools available to us," Merkley said. "I'm glad to see the federal government step up to support this quintessential Oregon project, bringing together a broad group of partners to address multiple challenges at once with an innovative solution that will support jobs in our woods, our timber mills, and our cities alike."

The Oregon Mass Timber Coalition is led by the Port of Portland, and plans to use the funds to expand the regional mass timber industry further across the state. According to the coalition, plans include research, prototyping and commercializing prefabricated mass timber housing systems, with a focus on manufacturing, workforce education and training, and facility construction supporting the research and development.

Altogether, these mass timber industry efforts are expected to create jobs, boost economic growth and address the housing shortage.

"This federal investment shows how Oregon continues leading the way in modernizing wood products, generating jobs and economic opportunities in communities statewide," Wyden said. "I'm gratified that the Oregon Mass Timber Coalition has earned these resources from the American Rescue Plan for fresh approaches to our state's signature timber industry. And I'll keep fighting for similar investments in Oregon to support these valuable new sources for jobs, affordable housing and building materials."

Some project plans include working with forest-dependent rural communities to grow access to wood fibers; provide resources to university research and development programs for prototyping new construction materials; stimulate wood products workforce development; and support state agencies in creating a regulatory framework to accommodate modular mass timber homes in rural areas.

"The Biden Administration is committed to supporting communities as they create pathways for sustainable economic development. For many rural communities in Oregon, timber is a vital industry key to jobs, housing, and the environment," said U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo. "This investment will create new economic opportunities across Oregon to help it not only recover from the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic but build back stronger and more equitably."

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