Mountain Pine Manufacturing to ramp up production of wood strand mulch from beetle-killed trees
Steamboat Springs — It’s been about two years since Trent Jones first considered bringing to market an erosion-control product made from beetle-killed trees.
The bales of wood strand mulch, which are made from Routt County trees that have been affected by the mountain pine beetle, that now sit outside a building on the west side of Steamboat Springs are the result of careful research and a plan.
In the beginning, the plan was scribbles here and there, Jones said. He’d had some counseling from Yampa Valley SCORE and sought out business mentors, but it took the business plan competition through Colorado Mountain College and the city of Steamboat Springs to push him to make a professional plan.
“It was the single most useful thing I did in the past two years,” Jones said Tuesday. “It motivated me to get it together.”
Mountain Pine Manufacturing, the company Jones formed, bought the license and equipment to make Wood Straw in June 2012 with the help of funds from the Colorado State Forest Service’s Forest Business Loan Fund, a program established to loan capital to businesses focused on using beetle-killed trees.
Wood Straw is designed to be spread over areas that require erosion mitigation, and it allows for regrowth. It is less expensive than alternatives like hydromulch and doesn’t have the potential to pass on noxious weeds like straw. In addition to forest fire mitigation and highway projects, it’s also great for rehabilitating sage grouse habitat, Jones said.
Mountain Pine Manufacturing and Jones won the business plan competition at the end of 2012 and with it $2,500, which helped provide cash flow on top of the significant capital investment, Jones said.
Even more significant was learning from the process and the mentors who judged the competition. “It was totally invaluable advice,” Jones said.
Now, Mountain Pine Manufacturing is working out the kinks of the system and is only a couple of weeks from being able to go into full production.
The product will be tested by the Wyoming Department of Transportation near Casper, Wyo., and another test is planned by the Colorado Department of Transportation. Jones said he’s also had interest from private ranches.
Mountain Pine Manufacturing is in the running for a Value Added Producer Grant from United States Department of Agriculture Rural Development. The grant would allow the company to stockpile product to be able to fill large orders, Jones said, and he eventually would like to hire six employees to run the machinery during the busy season.
Most of the need for erosion mitigation will be in the fall, Jones said.
To reach Michael Schrantz, call 970-871-4206 or email mschrantz@SteamboatToday.com
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