Redwood lumber marketing project launching soon; supervisors approve using Headwaters Fund grant

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Megan Hansen/The Times-Standard

Posted:   04/25/2012 02:18:06 AM PDT

Humboldt County residents can expect to start seeing advertisements promoting the use of redwood over other building materials thanks to a marketing program that will utilize a Headwaters Fund grant.

The Humboldt County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to approve spending $750,000 in Headwaters Fund money during the next three years to develop and implement a redwood lumber advertising campaign.

Headwaters Fund coordinator Dawn Elsbree said the goal of the campaign is to convince California residents to choose redwood over wood-plastic composite lumber when building decks. She said the hope is an increased demand will help retain, if not increase, local jobs.

”Humboldt County has two-thirds of the national redwood supply,” Elsbree said.

The Headwaters Fund board — created by the county to utilize $22 million in state and federal funds given to offset the sale of the Headwaters Forest Reserve — approved the grant application in March. Elsbree said the board plans to review the project’s impact after its second year, before funding the third year.

The project is a collaboration of the Humboldt Economic Development Division, the California Redwood Company and the Humboldt Redwood Company.

Carter Welch, vice president in marketing for the Humboldt Redwood Company, said people don’t realize that redwood decking is less expensive and more environmentally friendly than composite. He said composite companies have been busy promoting their own products.

”Composite spends about $20 million a year on marketing,” Welch said.

He said preliminary research indicated people’s opinions about using redwood versus composite decking dramatically changed when focus group subjects were shown a short video clip about redwood.

The supervisors were generally supportive of the redwood marketing idea, but did raise concerns about the project’s projected job retention rates. A county staff report indicates the marketing project is expected to create a 40 percent gain in redwood volume and help retain 827 jobs.

Third District Supervisor Mark Lovelace said early on in the meeting that he wasn’t convinced by the numbers and thought they might be too optimistic. He also thought the project’s price tag was a bit large.

”If $750,000 could create a 40 percent gain in 10 years, I’ve got to ask ‘then why hasn’t the industry done it already?’” Lovelace said. “Why do they need us?”

Two members of the public raised concerns about the project and one other voiced support for it.

Carl Schoenhofer, vice president and general manager of the California Redwood Company, said individual redwood companies have been trying to brand and market themselves for years. He said this project is different.

”This gives us the opportunity to do it in a collaborative way,” Schoenhofer said.

The supervisors ended up approving the project on a 4-0 vote, with 1st District Supervisor Jimmy Smith absent.

Jacqueline Debets, county economic development coordinator and project manager, said the exact date of the advertising campaign kick-off has yet to be determined. She said the plan is to run a series of television commercials, create a website and create a social media presence.

”I would like to do a local event,” Debets said. “Hopefully, we’ll announce something in a month or so.”

In addition to approving the redwood marketing project, the supervisors approved allocating $101,000 in Headwaters Fund grants to two other community projects.

The first project involves creating two commercial kitchens in an existing building at the Redwood Acres Fairgrounds in Eureka. Money from the Headwaters Fund, in the amount of $61,000, will be used to build the kitchen facilities. People will be able to rent the kitchens to create Humboldt-made edibles and products.

The second project will utilize $40,000 in Headwaters Fund money to support a community facility called Studio 299 in Willow Creek. Funds will be used to expand a newly purchased property in the downtown area for the eventual creation of a center for the arts.

Megan Hansen can be reached at 441-0511 or mhansen@times-standard.com.

This article may also be found on the Times-Standard website, Redwood lumber marketing project launching soon; supervisors approve using Headwaters Fund grant.

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