WNC Forest Products Project Request for Proposals

WNC Forest Products Cooperative
Production and Marketing Project

Request for Proposals
February 26, 2010

Summary: Land-of-Sky Regional Council seeks proposals from forest producers to improve the marketing or production methods for their forest-based businesses. We are particularly interested in proposals that involve several forest producers working together to reach new markets or to produce their forest products more efficiently. This project is supported by the US Forest Service Southern Research Station with American Reinvestment and Recovery Act funding so the main project focus will be hiring forest producers to improve their enterprises. Funds are not available for major equipment purchases. Proposals are due by 5:00 pm on March 31, 2010. The total budget to fund proposals under this request is $1 million. The maximum amount for any proposal is $100,000.

Background Information: Refer to: http://www.landofsky.org/planning/p_working_lands.html  and select “WNC Forest Products Cooperative Marketing” in the center of the page for the Plan of Work for the project issuing this request for proposals. Background information on the project is contained in that document and also examples of promising approaches.

Jobs, Not Equipment or Consultants: A principal goal of this request is to find underemployed or unemployed forest workers with creative ideas about improving their forest enterprises. In contrast to major equipment purchases or substantial consultant work, we will hire forest producers to do research, explore alternate approaches to production or marketing, or to strengthen market connections. Successful proposals will use most of the requested funds to employ forest producers in improving their businesses.

Eligible forest producers: For the purposes of this request, forest producers are persons engaged in businesses which grow, harvest, process, market, or use timber and non-timber forest products. They may include forest land owners, timber harvesters, mill operators, forest product wholesalers, builders using forest products, forest food producers, growers or harvesters of woodland herbs, forest farmers, and other individuals or organizations involved in the supply chain between western North Carolina forests and consumers of forest products. Producers may include formal marketing cooperatives or informal groups of producers that are interested in cooperating for more efficient production or marketing. Both timber and non-timber forest products will be included in this definition. Field-produced tree species such as container ornamentals, fruit orchards, and Christmas trees will not be included. Funds are not available for major equipment purchases.

Examples of Eligible Expenses:
Forest producer salaries up to $20/hr
Incidental supplies and equipment of less than 5% of the total proposal amount
Travel expenses for project-related travel
Communication expenses such as long distance telephone calls

Examples of Ineligible Expenses:
Large equipment purchases (more than $1000)
Consulting expenses exceeding 5% of the total proposal

Hypothetical Example: A group of loggers in Madison and Yancey Counties works independently and makes a reasonable living hauling large diameter wood to the local log yard. Some smaller diameter wood finds its way into the market but the return is poor and as a result landowners are rarely interested in improving their stands by removing smaller trees. These loggers see marketing that smaller wood as an opportunity to improve their profit margin but they need to find a way to make it pay a better return. They also believe that more efficient timber harvest operations and avoiding expensive equipment sitting idle may offer ways to improve their profits.

A facilitator and several of the group members talk with technical experts and solicit suggestions on how to proceed. Guided by this advice the logger group develops a proposal that describes dividing the group into teams to explore solutions. One team is proposed to look at ways to share equipment and to bring in the latest new devices to speed up their harvest operations. Another team will examine FSC Certification and starts working with a group of landowners that may be interested in working with their logger group. A third team will arrange a meeting with the Green Building Council to find interested builders and to understand the specifications needed for high value wood products. A fourth team will explore ways to add value to their products by “putting a face on it.” They will work with marketing experts to brand a line of locally grown, sustainably harvested wood that green-oriented customers around Asheville are willing to support.

(Note: A proposal in response to this request might describe a process similar to the one in bold above that these hypothetical loggers developed. Below is how that project might proceed if the proposal is selected for funding.)

After this first phase described above, the teams will report back and the logger group proposes a pilot project. The pilot is largely successful and two years later the group has sold three logging trucks and two skidders to help finance a forwarder to haul small diameter wood to the deck more quickly. They finish the certification process for over 200 acres of forest land needing stand improvement. A newly unveiled web portal offers a line of certified framing timbers, trim and flooring that will go into houses within a hundred miles of where it is harvested.

After the project most of the logger group continues to meet at monthly breakfast meetings. Several of them are business partners using shared equipment and they all benefit from the opportunity to share thoughts with their peers in the forest industry.

Characteristics of Successful Proposals: Successful proposals will include some or all of the following characteristics:
1. employ several underemployed or unemployed forest workers
2. involve a group of Western North Carolina forest producers
3. improve the profitability of multiple forest-based enterprise in WNC
4. improve the marketing of forest products, particularly to local or regional markets
5. improve the economic, environmental or community sustainability of forest enterprises
6. increase the level of collaboration and cooperation between forest producers or between producers and their customers
7. lead to more efficient use of equipment, personnel, or marketing resources
8. seek support for efforts not currently supported by other programs
9. include a plan for long term economic viability once stimulus support is complete

Forest Stimulus Project Support for Producer Groups: Project staff is available to help in facilitating meetings, finding technical advisors, and providing marketing assistance. Cooperating Organization in this project are:
The Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project (http://www.buyappalachian.org/)
The Land-of-Sky Regional Council (http://www.landofsky.org/)
The Mountain Horticultural Crops Research and Extension Center of NCSU (http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/fletcher/programs/herbs/)
The NC Division of Forest Resources ( http://www.dfr.state.nc.us/) and
The Southern Forest Network (http://www.southernsustainableforests.org/ ).

Please describe in your proposal any assistance that you may need from these or other government or nonprofit organizations to carry out your proposed project.

Public Meetings to Clarify this Request for Proposals: Three public meetings will be held as described below to clarify this request and to answer questions.

Boone – La Quinta Inn & Suites 165 Highway 105 Extension Boone, NC 28607
Phone: 1-828-262-1234 for directions
March 16, 2010 from 4:00-6:00

Asheville – at Land-of-Sky Regional Council
339 Leicester Highway Asheville 28806
March 17, 2010 from 3:30-5:30
Directions at: http://www.landofsky.org/mainlinks/contact.html

Cherokee – at Cherokee Indian Fairgrounds Exhibit Hall
545 Tsali Blvd. Cherokee, NC 28719
March 18, 2010 from 4:00-6:00
Directions to Cherokee Meeting: Take I-40 west to exit 27 (Great Smoky Mountains Expressway). Continue west on U.S. 74 past Waynesville, Sylva, and Dillsboro to exit 74, Cherokee. U.S.Hwy 441 will take you into Cherokee. Turn right at the “T” intersection juncture with Hwy 19. You will see the Oconaluftee River ahead. Just before you reach the river, turn left on Tsali Blvd. The Cherokee Indian Fairgrounds and Exhibit Hall will be on your left in approximately ¼ mile. Enter the Fairgrounds through the small walking gate at the parking lot and proceed ahead to the large Exhibit hall building.

Proposal Format: Proposals may not exceed 4000 words including any appendices and may be submitted in electronic or printed form. Electronic proposals must be readable by Microsoft Word. The proposal will include the following sections as well as others as needed:
• Cover page with contact information including the name of a principal contact person, postal address, telephone number and email address (if available);
• Project summary of 100 words or less;
• Proposed budget;
• Proposed schedule;
• A list of persons involved in the project and those willing to support the project as well as the nature of their involvement, and
• Other sections to convey the key concepts of the proposal.

Selection Process: Land-of-Sky Regional Council will acknowledge receipt of proposals within a week of the deadline. A panel of reviewers will advise LOSRC on the most promising proposals to support based on the criteria described below. The contact person for each proposal will be notified within one month of the status of the proposal. Funding is projected to be available within two months of the deadline for successful proposals, pending approval of employment contracts with proposal participants. The Council may need to verify employment status related to employment contracts.

Selection Criteria:
• Completeness and Clarity of the Proposal - Is it clear what the forest producers intend to do if selected? Does the proposal have all the required elements?
• Jobs Impact – What will be the impact of the project? How many underemployed forest producers are involved? How many jobs will the proposed project support in the future? What are likely annual sales and secondary community impacts in the future? What other forest producers or forest enterprises will be affected?
• Likelihood of Long Term Benefits – Does it seem likely that the producer group can accomplish what they propose with the available time and resources? Are plans proposed to economically sustain the project when stimulus funds are gone? Does the project support sustainable forest practices? Does it support rural communities economically and otherwise? Will the results provide a useful model for other forest producers?
• Importance of Project to WNC Forests - Is the project related to working forests and forest products? Does the project focus on clearly defined forest and community needs and opportunities?
• Qualifications of Project Leaders and Other Project Participants - Is it clear what the producer group intends to do with their time and with the funds listed in the budget? Do the project leaders have relevant experience and expertise? Are others willing to bring time, experience, or financial resources to the project and how will they be contributed? (refer to letters of support below)
• Sustainable Solutions – Does the project support sustainable forestry practices? Does it support rural communities economically and otherwise over the long term?
• Building Local Capacity and Collaboration - Will the project engage and build the capacity and expertise of local individuals, businesses, agencies and organizations to achieve project goals? Does the project seek to avoid duplication of efforts? Does the project propose to use local resources that are currently directed toward their topic?

Letters of Support: The project proposal should describe the roles of all participants including those that volunteer time, materials or funding outside the support that may be awarded under this request for proposals. Letters of support from project supporters are welcome but not required. At a minimum, project supporters should be listed along with contact information so we can confirm their level of commitment to the proposed project.

Similar Proposals: LOSRC reserves the right to offer submitters of similar or related proposals the opportunity to collaborate after the due date of the RFP. For example, we may attempt to connect groups of forest products producers with groups of forest products buyers or with groups of forest land owners. We may also propose that groups with similar proposals explore opportunities to combine their efforts.

Funding Acknowledgement: The funding for this project is provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act through the Southern Research Station of the USDA Forest Service. (http://www.srs.fs.usda.gov/index.htm).

Deadline: Proposals are due by 5:00 EDT on March 31, 2010 by mail or email at:
Land-of-Sky Regional Council
339 New Leicester Hwy, Suite 140
Asheville, NC 28806
(828) 251-6622
Fax (828) 251-6353

Project Schedule:
Award to LOSRC: December 3, 2009
RFP Issued: February 15, 2010
Proposals Due: March 31, 2010
Successful Producer Groups Sign Contracts and Begin: April and May 2010 (projected)
Final Producer Group Reports: August 30, 2011
Project Complete: September 30, 2011

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