Forestry and the wood-based economy is a very large part of what defines the County of Renfrew, located in the Upper Ottawa Valley. One of our pillars of economic development, along with agriculture, tourism and manufacturing, wood and wood processing businesses also play an integral role in the emerging creative and entrepreneurial economy. Generations of family members have grown this industry, and their operations, to sustainable levels which are able to withstand the many recessions we’ve had over the past 150 years of logging in our region. The new economy is encouraging the current generation to look towards embracing new ways of producing, promoting and marketing what forestry means to the area.
Recently, with thanks to the Eastern Ontario Development Program, the County of Renfrew’s economic development services department teamed up with the County’s forestry division to focus on a support mechanism to help market this industry in a new spin on the “buy local” retention tool. The newly minted “Ottawa Valley Wood” promotion will see economic development and forestry staff engage the dozens of owners/operators of County of Renfrew SMEs that focus on anything wood; artists that use the medium, mill operators, cabinet and furniture makers, trim companies, pre-fabricated house manufacturers and so on. This compilation of profiles, along with the personal engagement of a key sector in the region, will bump the standard business visit tool to the next level.
Through the use of social media – a Facebook page has already been created: www.facebook.com/OttawaValleyWood – and a soon to be developed dedicated URL, this new tool will allow consumers the ability to source locally produced wood products and/or raw materials. Throughout the initial research for the program, it was abundantly clear that (local) consumers were not aware of “who did what” in their neighbourhood and that products could be purchased on/at site in many occasions. Additionally, from a producers point-of-view, this newly created dedicated directory will offer linkages amongst each other that they normally were not able to access in one location.
The County of Renfrew is the largest county in Ontario at over 7,600 square kilometres and with a population of just over 105,000 people. The distances between centres of industry can be worlds apart, with many of the primary operators in the West not familiar with the value-added processors in the East, for example. This virtual networking and marketing tool will hopefully bridge that gap and allow our area’s entrepreneurs to grow and flourish, together.