PRINCE GEORGE, BC - Provincial government support favoring high-rise wood manufacturing over other building materials has stirred opposition from two other Canadian construction sector suppliers: Canada's steel and cement businesses.

Wood First, a marketing effort launched in 2009 by the Province of British Columbia, was established to revive the wood manufacturing sector, and find new applications for wood as a construction material. British Columbia is providing major support to a Wood First initiative: construction of the Wood Innovation and Design Centre.

Now being built in Prince George, BC, with a C$25 million in support from the provincial government, it will be on of the largest and tallest commercial buildings made principally of wood.

Cement and steel producers say the Wood First program looked like a reasonable effort during the depths of the downturn. But with recovery, the government should not favor one market segment over another.

The Canadian Institute of Steel Construction sponsored a Vancouver conference in October, Converge 2013, that gathered a number of construction industry supply groups, including the  concrete, steel, iron and masonry trade associations from across Canada.

The Wood Innovation and Design Centre (WIDC), meanwhile, continues on track in downtown Prince George, planned as a showcase for British Columbia's expertise in wood construction, engineered wood products and design. The provincial government has committed to having the WIDC open by fall of 2014.

The project is also tied to expertise in wood construction and design through educational programming to be set up by the University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC), such as a Master of Engineering program specializing in wood building and innovation.

The WIDC uses interlocking wood modules produced with CLT construction, allowing wood buildings to reach unprecedented heights. But British Columbia's government says says the WIDC's "innovative and complex construction is only part of the story," since it also positions the wood industry to supply wood high rise construction for Asian markets.The government is supporting this effort through its Forestry Innovation Investment program.

Based in Vancouver, FII has offices in Shanghai, Beijing, and Mumbai in India, where it hopes to spark demand for high rise wood construction as an alternative to steel and concrete.

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