HANOVER, ONTARIO - A consortium of more than 40 Canadian woodworking shops that build furniture brought their shared manufacturing model to furniture buyers and sellers at the fall 2015 High Point Market in North Carolina last month. The woodworking companies say they found new distributors for their furniture lines, and the mutual peer support network aids them in building business.

High Point Market is the largest furnishings market in the world, and more than 80,000 people from around the globe converged on High Point, NC Oct. 17-22, to engage each other in trade opportunities. The improving U.S. economy and the low Canadian dollar are making conditions for export development for Canadian wood products manufacturers much better.

"Take those conditions, and the Bluewater Wood Alliance cluster, and we have a collaborative project opportunity to seize," says managing director Mike Baker.

 
At High Point, three Bluewater Wood Alliance companies shared showroom space as designers and buyers converged on the fall High Point Market October 17-22. Vokes Furniture, Crate Designs, and Springwater Woodcraft worked together to finish the showroom with their products. 
 
Southwestern Ontario is home to over 3,000 companies in the advanced wood products manufacturing industries, which includes home, office and institutional furniture; solid wood flooring; veneer production; kitchen and bath cabinets; millwork. Current employment in the area’s wood products manufacturing plants is about 10,000, with sales from the region of over $300 million.
 
The Bluewater Wood Alliance brings as many of these companies into the cluster as would like to join, as well as interested companies from the surrounding regions. "The idea is to bring like-minded companies together for the purpose of joint projects in skills development, technology transfer, export development and experience exchanges in a bottom-up driven association," says Baker. 
 
Funding for the start-up was provided, in part, by FP Innovations (which also made a presentation on lean manufacturing at WMS 2015)with further research funding from the Wood Manufacturing Council and the Wood Promotions Program of the Ontario Ministry of Northern Development, Mines and Forestry. The Bluewater Wood Alliance also work with the federal and provincial funding agencies to develop infrastructure and project funding, including working with educational institutions on the secondary and post-secondary levels to provide training and skills development for the industry.
 
"The results were fantastic for all three companies," says Baker. Noting sales reps were established across several border states and down into the Midwest, "This is proof that the cluster model works to help wood manufacturing companies gain access to opportunities they otherwise would not have access to. In this case, opening up exposure to the U.S. market via High Point is time and money well invested."  
 
For more information about the BWA and collaborative projects, please contact BWA Manager Mike Baker: manager@bluewaterwoodalliance.com

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