Gov. Asa Hutchinson's proposed budget includes $841,000 for the University of Arkansas at Monticello's College of Forestry, Agriculture and Natural Resources.
During Hutchinson's balanced-budget presentation to the state's Joint Budget Committee on Tuesday, he proposed funding for the UAM program, according to a news release.
"We have $841,000 in the budget, which is a new item, for the UAM College of Forestry in Monticello," Hutchinson said. "This investment will support the all-important timber industry in South Arkansas and help us to stay on the forefront of innovation in that important economic driver in our state."
The proposed funding will support the Arkansas Center for Forest Business, housed in UAM's College of Forestry, Agriculture and Natural Resources and directed by professor Matthew Pelkki.
The center provides technical assistance for market-based solutions to forest resource challenges, programs for degree and post-baccalaureate education, and information on timber supply, forest products markets and operational efficiency.
"When fully funded, the center anticipates hiring an additional three to four Ph.D-level technical experts in forest products marketing, forest finance and taxation, supply chain management, and global trade/policy," Pelkki said.
"The Arkansas Center for Forest Business will work cooperatively with state agencies (i.e., Department of Agriculture, Economic Development Commission), other universities (i.e., UA's Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design, UALR/UAFs/ASU engineering programs), UAM's School of Business, local economic development agencies, and importantly, existing forest landowners, loggers, mills and wood products consumers to advance and increase the markets and use of sustainably produced wood products," Pelkki said.
UAM Chancellor Peggy Doss praised the collaborative efforts that led to Hutchinson's support of the center.
"Funding for the Arkansas Center for Forest Business at UAM is a testament to the impressive research that Dr. Pelkki and the entire College of Forestry, Agriculture and Natural Resources already conduct for the state of Arkansas," Doss said.
"Their commitment to finding new value-added wood products and recruiting new wood industries to Arkansas is vital to the future of Southeast Arkansas's economic development. This important project would not be possible without the assistance of the entire Southeast Arkansas delegation in the General Assembly, along with Representatives Ken Bragg and Lane Jean, and of course, Governor Hutchinson. Future generations will look at the creation of this important center and recognize this as the beginning of something special for Arkansas," she said.