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Study looks at forest 'business clusters'

STARKVILLE — As links in a chain provide support and stability, so can “business clusters” for the forest products industry, according to a new report by Mississippi State University’s (MSU’s) Forest and Wildlife Research Center.

Funded by the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities Inc., the recent university study found that business clustering can provide competitive advantages and build business resilience among the entities. The investigation was conducted by MSU scientists and colleagues at the University of Missouri’s forestry department and Minnesota-based Dovetail Partners Inc.

“Close collaboration between members of a business cluster allows for better understanding of processes, cost structures and opportunities for efficiency improvements,” said Robert Grala, an MSU assistant forestry professor. “This type of collaboration can provide the resiliency needed to address adverse market conditions and allow for the adoption of new technologies.”

The study collected information during the summer and fall of 2008. The information was used to develop a template for a national registry of forest business clusters.

Overall, the study found that companies gain ready access to trained workers, infrastructure and specialized suppliers by locating their production and services in business clusters.

To assist interested entities, the project concluded by opening an online registry of U.S. forest business clusters. The registry includes location, contact information, legal status, umbrella organizations, duration, size and specific strategies of existing forest sector clusters.

The entire report may be viewed at www.usendowment.org/businessclusteringhome.html. To register an existing cluster or find the nearest one, visit www.fwrc.msstate.edu/cluster.

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