MONTICELLO, Ark. — On September 29, the University of Arkansas at Monticello (UAM) hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Arkansas Center for Forest Business, which is housed in the UAM College of Forestry, Agriculture and Natural Resources building on the Monticello campus. Approximately 200 people attended the ceremony, where Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson served as the keynote speaker.
The center was created to provide market-based economic solutions to forest resource issues. It aims to improve business practices for forest enterprises and enhance the economic competitiveness of Arkansas’ forests in a global economy. Gov. Hutchinson provided seed funds of $450,000 to establish the center in June 2021.
Dr. Matthew Pelkki, professor and George Clippert Chair of Forestry in the UAM College of Forestry, Agriculture and Natural Resources, serves as the director of the Arkansas Center for Forest Business. During the ceremony, Dr. Pelkki highlighted the origin of the center, explaining, “About 12 years ago, Dean Emeritus Phil Tappe and I came up with a simple concept: healthy forests, healthy forest economy, healthy forest businesses and vibrant rural communities are really complementary. They all work together, and it is a win-win-win situation for the forest, the people and the economy, so we put together a proposal for the Center for Forest Business with the help of a long list of people.”
Dr. Michael Blazier, dean of the UAM College of Forestry, Agriculture and Natural Resources and director of the Arkansas Forest Resources Center of the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, spoke during the ceremony, noting, “Forests in Arkansas are extremely valuable to the economy. They contribute about $16 billion annually to the Arkansas economy, including $6 billion in traditional forest products output and another $10 billion in the value of what they bring in from hunting, fishing and recreation.”
“Another thought that is integral to the mission of the Center for Forest Business is that managed forests are healthy forests. We take great pride in the fact that this is Arkansas’ sole university that produces four-year and graduate-level forestry graduates to serve this important industry,” Dr. Blazier said. “The center will be here to enhance all parts of the forestry sector of the state of Arkansas.”
Dr. Peggy Doss, chancellor of UAM, was instrumental in securing funding for the center. During her speech, she thanked members of the Arkansas General Assembly and Gov. Hutchinson for helping to make the center possible. “Governor Hutchinson has been so extraordinarily supportive. Without his support, this would not be possible. Governor, there are no words to express our gratitude to you.”
Dr. Doss said that the center will partner with programs at the UAM Colleges of Technology in Crossett and McGehee to provide additional educational opportunities to those pursuing forestry-related careers.
C.C. “Cliff” Gibson, III, chair of the University of Arkansas Board of Trustees, also offered thanks, stating, “I want to offer heartfelt gratitude to the governor, senators and representatives. Without you all, this would not be a reality. You have given us the ball, and we are going to carry it.”
During his keynote speech at the ceremony, Gov. Hutchinson said, “This Center for Forest Business will do more than simply allow us to preserve our forests and to enjoy them forever. It will create jobs, increase incomes and strengthen our communities in Southeast Arkansas, while at the same time managing the forests in a way that keeps them healthy, keeps them vibrant and keeps them a part of our future.”
“In the last eight years, I have placed a priority on forestry and the development of that industry in our state because I recognize it as an economic driver and an important part of our natural state,” Gov. Hutchinson said.
“I see the importance of research and development,” Gov. Hutchinson noted. “That is done here, at UAM. It is done at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. And that has been combined and worked together to make the university system one of the leaders in research and development in the timber industry across America. That is important, and the center here at UAM involves all of those: the recruitment part that we rely on to bring business here; the expansion of timber and construction; and the research and development area, combined with our work at Fayetteville. UAM is a leader in all three.”
For the ribbon cutting, Gov. Hutchinson landed a blow from a sledgehammer to the end of a pre-cut log, knocking free a wooden cookie to reveal the Arkansas Center for Forest Business logo.
For more information about the Arkansas Center for Forest Business, visit the center’s website.
For more information about the forestry program, contact the UAM College of Forestry, Agriculture and Natural Resources at 870-460-1052.