Thursday, August 19, 2010
Resource-dependent communities have historically captured little of the enormous wealth that has flowed through them. They have simply extracted raw materials, creating relatively few jobs while remaining at the mercy of external market forces and owners. Most of the economic value has been generated elsewhere.
In contrast, local economies are able to turn raw resources, both local and imported, into a wide range of products and services. Such economies can effectively harness skilled labor and specialized equipment to add many layers of value to every tree, fish, mineral, or crop. They provide more economic activity — and therefore more jobs — per unit of resource, decreasing pressure on nature and enhancing social equity.
Timbre Tonewood, based on Vancouver Island, provides an excellent example of value-added production. The company, which makes spruce and cedar guitar tops, carefully evaluates every piece of wood that comes through its mill. Based on their appearance, the dried planks are sorted into nine different grades, ranging from the low-end tops, which will probably be painted, to the very best — distinguished by their creamy color, their even ring pattern, and rays running across the grain.
Timbre Tonewood's by-products feed the local economy as well. A local box-maker uses some of the pieces that are too small or irregular to be made into guitar tops for smoked salmon cases. Using waste as resource, another local entrepreneur blends the sawdust from the operation with shrimp shells to make compost.
Value-added products have also been developed from timber (including flooring, lumber, furniture, crafts, etc.), seafood (premium products created through careful processing and decreasing time to market), agriculture (specialty products like jams, sauces, packaged foods), and many other sources.
Add value locally by careful application of appropriate skills and equipment, creating additional jobs without increasing the strain on ecosystems. This helps maintain a stable and diverse local economy