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Stoltze receiving $1M federal grant to launch wood processing plant

by KATE HESTON
Daily Inter Lake | April 18, 2023 12:00 AM

Stoltze Timber Systems in Columbia Falls is receiving $1 million in U.S. Forest Service funding to support the development of a wood processing plant and allow for the implementation of new timber water crossings.

U.S. Sen. Jon Tester’s office earlier this month celebrated the 2023 funding recipients, which includes Stoltze, Marks-Miller Post and Pole, Inc. in Clancy and the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes. The dollars come as part of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which Tester helped shepherd through Congress.

“A strong timber industry is critical for the strength of our rural economies and the resiliency of our forests,” Tester said in a statement last week. “That’s why I worked to secure funding for timber projects across western Montana that will create good-paying jobs and support responsible forest management.”

Pat Clark, managing partner of manufacturing at Stoltze, said the timber company was awarded the money after applying for the wood innovation grant with the Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Forest Service.

Clark said that previous wood innovation grants were used primarily for research. This funding will let Stoltze buy the machinery and set up a manufacturing facility for mass timber projects using small diameter timber.

“It allows us to add value to the current saw and timber products by turning them into engineered wood products,” Clark said.

The bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act passed in November 2021. The funding awarded this year comes from $200 million allocated in the act to remove flammable vegetation for the creation of biochar or innovative wood products over a five year span, according to Tester’s office.

Stoltze-owned Wooden Haus is receiving $1 million via the U.S. Forest Service. The two other recipients earned a portion each of the remaining $600,000.

While the funds won’t cover the whole project, it is a step in the right direction. Sammi Johnson, the marketing and communications director at Stolze, said that it boils down to a resource need: There are a lot of small trees in Northwest Montana with nowhere to go.

“It takes a while to get to a place where we can use those trees for something valuable,” Johnson said. “This helps solve a big industry wide resource problem.”

Stoltze representatives are meeting with the U.S. Forest Service this week to discuss project specifics and a possible timeline.

The grants are fully paid for without increasing taxes, according to Tester’s office. The senator, a Democrat, worked with a group of five Republicans, four Democrats and the White House on the legislation in 2021. He was the sole member of Montana’s congressional delegation to vote for it.

The goal, according to Tester, is to create more American jobs and lower costs for businesses by making targeted investments.

“The end goal of this is to start up our own manufacturing facility here in the Flathead Valley,” Clark said. “That’s really why we applied for the grant.”

Reporter Kate Heston can be reached at kheston@dailyinterlake.com or 758-4459.