Bluewater Wood Alliance, an Ontario area cluster of 80 woodworking business members that have allied for mutual business support, has expanded its geographic reach to include Southwestern Ontario.
 
The program, which receives government support, mirrors a European program, following the Upper Austria Clusterland Model.
 
BWA continues to evolve toward sustainability over time with the increase in membership and development of other revenue streams. Since the inception of the BWA in 2011, the accomplishments and the reach of the BWA continue to accrue with earnest. 
 
If not for the initial support of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) Wood Promotions Branch, the BWA would not have been able to facilitate any of the collaborative projects that have benefited wood product manufacturing companies in southwestern Ontario. These companies would otherwise not have access to these opportunities.
 
Examples include:
 
•   Export development projects introducing members to new markets, such as the Index show in Dubai, UAE, and the High Point Market in High Point, North Carolina
•   Recent OMAFRA RED project funding to help companies adopt new technologies and initiate process improvement projects. $500,000 in funding leveraged over $3 million in member project investment over the past 2 years!
•   Monthly Plant Tour Focus groups where members learn from each other's challenges, solutions, best practices, and adoption of lean principles
•   Learning events where members have access to subject matter experts through a shared cost model, making expertise affordable and accessible
•   Quarterly Networking Events leveraging the supply chain members for expertise and technology transfer
•   Participate on Program Advisory Committees for Community Colleges to connect industry needs with workforce development stakeholders
•   Sponsorship of 20 high schools in southwestern Ontario to adopt the Woodlinks curriculum
•   Facilitate a bottom-up driven organization where industry dictates the agenda 
•   Most recently, the BWA has expanded the cluster region to include the whole of southwestern Ontario!
•   Recently hit a milestone of 80 members
•   Membership is dominated by manufacturers, with an 80/20 ratio manufacturers to suppliers
 
The Bluewater Wood Alliance recognizes and thanks the Hon. Minister Bill Mauro and the MNRF for supporting its operations. The successes of the BWA are also successes of the MNRF.
 
A solid maple plaque was created, and presented to the Hon. Minister in Queens Park on Dec 3, 2015 by BWA Executive Director, Michael Baker.
The Hon Minister Mauro was very grateful and appreciative of the BWA's efforts, noting that the BWA is an "Important good news story for the industry".
 
As the meeting wrapped up, the minister made it very clear: "Keep it growing Mike, and keep up the great work." And so we move forward into the New Year with great momentum!
 

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 20,000 with sales from the region of over $300 million. 

This project aims to bring 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. If you want more information on the BWA and its activities, contact BWA Executive Director, Mike Baker at: manager@bluewaterwoodalliance.com

Have something to say? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.