BWA becomes WMCO
HANOVER, Ontario – To mark its tenth anniversary, celebrate its growth and launch its new strategic direction, the Bluewater Wood Alliance has changed its name to the Wood Manufacturing Cluster of Ontario (WMCO). It remains the only European-styled support group for wood furniture makers operating in North America.
In a statement, WMCO executive director Mike Baker noted the group’s geographic coverage has expanded beyond the area surrounding Bruce County to cover all of southwestern Ontario.
“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,” the group’s statement read. “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,” it continued.
The BWA was created in January 2011 after two of its members went to the Cluster Academy in Linz, Austria, for training and was led by a seven-member board from companies within a two-hour drive of the Hanover-Walkerton area.
Over the next few years, the alliance’s membership roster grew – attracting both wood product manufacturers and vendors from other points of their supply chain. They began holding quarterly networking events where both suppliers and members could meet to discuss the latest developments in technology and further their business relationships.
The group increased both the frequency and variety of events it held, such as plant tours, training, export development and round table sessions discussing a variety of topics of interest and importance.
Five years after it was founded, the BWA had grown to 80 members and its official cluster region was expanded to include all of southwestern Ontario and its board size was increased to include ten manufacturers and two supply-chain members.
At its tenth anniversary, the WMCO has more than 120 members. Among the furniture manufacturers who belong are solid wood specialist Durham Furniture as well case goods makers West Bros., Voke, Crate Designs, Springwater Woodcraft and Ruffsawn, among others. The group also includes wood flooring producers such as Breezewood Floors and Century Wood Products as well as several kitchen cabinet makers.
Baker points out that Ontario is home to the largest concentration of value-added wood manufacturing in Canada, with some 2,000 companies employing approximately 30,000 people and generating revenue of about $6.6 billion annually.
As part of its rebranding, the Wood Manufacturing Cluster of Ontario has launched a new web site that can be found here: www.wmco.ca
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