FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. - Good Earth Power AZ, LLC (GEPAZ) announced last week that it has invested millions of dollars over the past 13 months to develop a sustainable forest restoration business model to support its successful fulfillment of the Phase 1 contract of the Four Forest Restoration Initiative (4FRI).
"We were faced with the challenge of building an industry and a sustainable economic model at the same time that work was expected to begin in the forests," Good Earth Power CEO Jason Rosamond said. "There wasn't an existing forest industry in place to support active forest restoration on a large scale and it quickly became apparent that we would have to create the entire supply chain ourselves, through a combination of acquisition, partnerships and ground-up development of logging, manufacturing and trucking capacity."
Unlike other regional forest restoration efforts such as the White Mountain Stewardship Project, the 4FRI contract does not include any government subsidies. The delivery of the contract must be funded entirely by the private sector.
"It's not as simple as going into the forests and thinning trees," said GEPAZ co-founder Maya Minkova. "Equipment, workers, mills, trucks and markets have to all be in place to move and process the output from the forests."
Now GEPAZ's vertically-integrated model is being put to work, and it is producing partnerships that are creating jobs and economic growth in Arizona. By June 2015, the company projects that it will have assets valued at more than $30 million in the east side of the project region (Heber area) alone, directly employ more than 130 people and have invested millions more in the expansion of its restoration and manufacturing activities.
"It is a true economic development expansion story," Rosamond said.
GEPAZ acquired the Lumberjack Mill in Heber in January 2014 and began adding new equipment and capacity. The mill now employs 25 workers and has already seen a 60 percent increase in production. Additional improvements and the addition of a second shift will bring Lumberjack's capacity to 120,000 board feet per day (30 million board feet/year) by early 2015.
The addition of pole peeling and modern milling equipment at Lumberjack is also enabling GEPAZ to develop new markets. Rosamond also announced last week that GEPAZ has formed a strategic partnership with Forestal La Reforma (FLR) to produce and distribute forest products in Mexico and other international markets. FLR has co-located at the Lumberjack facility and GEPAZ will begin fulfilling orders for utility poles, lumber and decorative logs in December.
GEPAZ has acquired a composting company and has partnered with a large soils distribution company to compost the slash produced through forest restoration and sell it to markets within a 500-mile radius. The company has already acquired harvesting assets and began forest restoration on the west side of the contract area in November. GEPAZ expects to break ground on a soils production facility on the west side of the project region by the end of 2014, according to Rosamond.
"We have invested a great deal of time, money and manpower to address the challenges of this project and to create a sustainable forest restoration model that will pay for itself in the long-term," Rosamond said. "We have made significant progress in many areas and we are excited at our prospects for growth. Now production in the forests must follow."