By: The Working Forest Staff
Structurlam Mass Timber Corporation, the leading mass timber manufacturer in North America, has announced it will expand its operations into the United States, with a plant in Conway, Ark., set to open in mid-2021. The Canadian-based company, in which Walmart has made an investment, will spend $90 million to purchase, retrofit and equip a former steel plant and create 130 new jobs, and will source softwood lumber from Arkansas-grown Southern Pine trees.
“The commercial and residential building industry is experiencing a revolution brought on by the rise of mass timber building solutions,” said Hardy Wentzel, CEO of Structurlam. “At Structurlam, we’re transforming wood, one of nature’s most renewable resources, into a greener, more cost-effective, and aesthetically-pleasing alternative to concrete and steel. We’re proud to establish roots in the great state of Arkansas and the City of Conway, and support Walmart as the exclusive supplier of mass timber products for its new home office campus.”
Mass timber is a category of building construction featuring structural laminated wood components for walls, roofs, floors, beams, and columns. A key economic benefit of mass timber is the ability to design, model and prefabricate the structural elements of a project offsite, accelerating on-site production schedules by up to 25% compared to traditional onsite building with steel and concrete. Structurlam is the first manufacturer to bring mass timber to the North American market and the first to introduce CLT in the production of industrial ground protection matting products used in the energy and power transmission sectors.
“Our new U.S. location will answer the demand for mass timber building products and industrial matting products in the southern, central and eastern United States, and will complement our British Columbia operation serving the Canadian, Pacific Northwest, California and Intermountain markets,” added Wentzel.
Agriculture is Arkansas’s leading industry with timber making up a third of the overall income. The state has a strong stewardship program in place to protect timber as a renewable resource, planting 1.6 trees for every tree that is harvested.
“With 19 million acres of available forestland and a skilled workforce that is second to none, Arkansas is the natural choice for Structurlam’s first expansion into the United States,” said Gov. Asa Hutchinson. “We are excited about the technology and the additional opportunities for growth Structurlam brings with it to Arkansas. The company’s partnership with Walmart is an example of how this expansion will benefit our state’s timber industry.”
Walmart will be the first customer of Structurlam’s Conway facility. The world’s largest retailer plans to use more than 1.1 million cubic feet of Arkansas-grown and Arkansas-produced mass timber in its new Home Office campus in Bentonville, Arkansas, making it the largest campus project in the U.S. using mass timber.
“Structurlam is uniquely positioned to deliver its innovative approach to digital design collaboration and mass timber manufacturing to Walmart and the State of Arkansas,” said Dan Bartlett, executive vice president of Walmart Corporate Affairs. “With their help, we are able to realize our goal of connecting our associates with nature and the beauty of Arkansas through our new Home Office project.”
Structurlam selected Conway for its proximity to 19 million acres of sustainable forestland that covers more than half of the state’s total land area. The new plant is located close to transportation corridors that reach large southern and eastern markets. Other considerations included a site-ready location and available workforce.
“Today’s announcement is one of the most exciting in Conway’s long manufacturing history,” said Conway Mayor Bart Castleberry. “Structurlam is a perfect fit for our community. We’re excited and honoured to join their commitment to sustainability and innovation. This is a big win for the Conway workforce, the local economy, and the entire state of Arkansas.”