At a news conference Friday, the Nipissing-Timiskaming MP Tony Rota said efforts are underway to increase the limit on how tall wooden structures can be in the province, doubling the limit to 12 storeys from the current six.

“It’s a new endeavour,” Rota said after announcing a FedNor investment of $1.23 million to the Canadian Wood Council to support more than 200 construction projects.

“It will have a direct impact” on Northern Ontario employment, Rota said at the North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit.

“Northern Ontario is a major producer of wood . . . and this will have a major impact on the economy of Northern Ontario.”

The investment, he said, will help create middle-class jobs, particularly in the North, and to generate up to $126 million in wood sales.

About $1.2 million of the grant will support the Ontario Wood Works! program for a three-year period. Ontario Wood Works! delivers a range of technical support, educational and marketing communication services in Northern Ontario.

The initiative helps promote the use of wood in mid-rise buildings and identify system solutions for the construction of bridges and low-rise commercial buildings.

The Canadian Wood Council will receive $31,500 to hire a youth intern for a one-year period. The intern will serve as an events co-ordinator in Northern Ontario and will support the planning and execution of various activities and events for Ontario Wood Works!

“The Canadian Wood Council has been working for a number of years to promote wood” in the construction industry, Rota said. That includes not just raw wood, but engineered wood products that will be used in all facets of construction.

One of the major projects is the construction of three all-wood condominium developments at the former Kenroc site on Memorial Drive in North Bay.

Marianne Berube, executive director for Wood Works! in North Bay, pointed out that southern Ontario is “Canada’s largest building market,” putting Northern Ontario companies in an ideal position to serve that market.

“This is really important,” Berube said of the federal funding. “There are all kinds of new wood products . . . and we need to educate” the construction industry on both what is available and what can be done with those products.

She said it is not just the forestry companies that will be affected by the changing times, but companies that are producing value-added wood products for use in the construction industry.

“These are exciting times,” she said.

She said promoting the use of wood in construction, such as is evident throughout the health unit headquarters on Oak Street, is also a hedge against external pressures.

Canada and the United States have been involved in trade spats involving softwood lumber, with tariffs slapped on Canadian softwood going south of the border.

Focusing on the domestic market, she said, means Canadian softwood and hardwood suppliers will have ready customers.

Nathan Jensen, president of Mitchell, Jensen Architects in North Bay, said using wood “is always the aim” for architects in Canada.

“The funding announced today really helps Wood Works! continue to support architects and the construction industry in the use of wood.”

While there are differences in design between wood and conventional construction materials, he said, “building wood buildings doesn’t change, other than the material used is more sustainable.”

Caption: New Vision Park Properties Inc. of Sudbury plans to build three condo buildings on the former Kenroc/Uniroc site on Memorial Drive. The $25,000 land sale, which is slated to close in August, is conditional upon New Vision completing its due diligence regarding the environmental condition of the site. Each of the buildings, valued at $5 million, would house 21 condo units. Supplied Artwork.