New investment and jobs that pay well above the state average are among the payoffs state officials see in a just-released hardwood strategy. The Indiana Hardwood Strategy will focus on business development, education and marketing in hopes of growing an industry valued at more than $10 billion annually and responsible for 70,000 jobs. Indiana State Department of Agriculture Director Bruce Kettler says a boost to the sector could benefit some areas of the state that face economic hardships. "Most of this is in very rural areas of Indiana, and we’re always looking for ways to keep those folks there," said Kettler.
Kettler talked about the strategy and its potential on this weekend’s edition of Inside Indiana Business with Gerry Dick.
In releasing the strategy February 5, Lt. Governor Suzanne Crouch said there is substantial room for growth in the state’s hardwood sector, noting that Indiana has nearly 5 million acres of forestland, 84 percent of which is privately owned. The total acreage of timberland in the state has steadily increased since the 1960s and forests are currently growing in volume more than 3.3 times the amount being removed annually.
Because of Indiana’s soil composition and climate, it produces what is regarded as some of the highest quality hardwoods in the nation. Kettler believes adding value to the industry will result in jobs that pay well above the state average. “The work that we did on the strategy found that about $66,000 is the average wage in the industry, which is about 20 percent higher than Indiana’s average wage,” said Kettler.
The assessment and strategy were commissioned by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, the Indiana Hardwood Lumbermen’s Association and the Indiana State Department of Agriculture, and was completed by DJ Case & Associates, Purdue Center for Regional Development, Purdue University Department of Forestry and Natural Resources, and Purdue Extension.