The Wood Manufacturing Cluster of Ontario (WMCO) That is what the BWA board of directors, upon reflection on the last 10 years of the organization, realized they had become!
We’ve grown in 10 years from very humble beginnings and now encompass a larger area and offer a much more comprehensive program to assist our members, and along with this comes a name change to better reflect who we are today.
Read on to learn more and see these videos that tell the story!
Back in 2009, seven wood manufacturing companies in the Grey-Bruce, Huron Perth region of Ontario were feeling the pinch of the economic recession, and the pressure of foreign imports. Even though some were competitors and had been for many years, collectively, they needed to do something that could be mutually beneficial for all of them, to help them through this difficult time.
They started to talk to each other, invited each other into their factories to see their operations. After exchanging some ideas and best practices, they quickly realized they all shared the same challenges and opportunities. Having learned about industry-led clusters in Europe from research on needed changes in the industry, they set about starting one.
In January 2011, two representatives from the BWA went to the Cluster Academy in Linz, Austria, for cluster training.
The decision was made to form a cluster, which was incorporated in March, 2011 as a non-profit industry-led cluster, named the Bluewater Wood Alliance (aka: the BWA), with 7 initial board members. The BWA’s initial cluster region was defined as a 1-2 hr radius from the Hanover-Walkerton area.
BWA reached out to other companies in the region, along with the supply-chain companies, and began to hold quarterly networking events where suppliers and manufacturers could meet and discuss new technologies and further develop their business relationships. By November of 2012 they had grown to about 25 member companies and hired a cluster manager.
They then ramped up the frequency and variety of events to include plant tour Kaizen events, training, export development projects, and round table sessions on important topics.
Gradually, interest grew among wood manufacturing companies from all over southwestern Ontario (SWO) to attend the events. Membership grew fast. Companies from the GTA, as far west as Chatham, and Niagara and up to Muskoka joined the alliance.
In 2016, the BWA had 80 members. It was decided to expand the official cluster region to include all SWO to better serve the members, while also expanding the board of directors to 10 manufacturing members and 2 supply-chain members in order to best represent the membership segments. Networking and training events began to take place across SWO to best serve the expanded catchment area and diverse membership.
Facts: Ontario is home to the largest concentration of value-added wood manufacturing in Canada: 6.6 billion in revenues, approximately 2000 companies, approximately 30,000 employees, 1.2 billion in payroll.
(Source: Conference Board of Canada, Wood Manufacturing Council, 2016)
Now, in 2021, the BWA is 10 years old, with over 120 member companies, and it is time to redefine who we really are as an industry cluster. This leads us to our next step. We are proud to announce our new brand and name to better represent who we are today: The Wood Manufacturing Cluster of Ontario!
Learn more about what our members have to say!