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Jackson County Floridan: Letter: New Florida law will protect jobs and economic growth

Monday, August 05, 2013

As the president of the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce, I work with our community, bringing businesses and individuals together to foster economic growth. The passage of Florida House Bill 269, and its signing by Governor Scott in June, deserves our praise, as it provides significant relief to the forest products sector of our state economy.

This legislation will aid Florida’s land owners and wood producers by encouraging the use of Florida-sourced timber products for public building projects. It also opens these projects to multiple building codes – not just the “LEED” standards, which institute a bias against timber in general and Florida wood in particular.

The bill gives state and local agencies the authority to adopt building codes and rating systems for taxpayer funded projects. These projects must include Florida wood during the construction of government buildings, schools and other developments, if Florida timber equals the quality of wood that could otherwise be used in the project.

The LEED building code previously used in these efforts favored a specific kind of timber – that certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). FSC only recognizes 5,000 acres of forests in Florida. This severely limited the number of businesses eligible for LEED’s sourcing credits, which enable a builder to enter a project. Alternatives to FSC, the American Tree Farm System (ATFS) and the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) cover 480 times as much Florida forestland as FSC. But ATFS and SFI timber were not recognized by LEED as sustainable. In effect, policies that favor FSC increase incentives for public projects to include wood from other states and countries – instead of locally grown Florida timber.

By leveling the playing field, House Bill 269 sustains the forest products industry and the jobs it supports in communities throughout our state.

Jeff Massey, Jackson County Chamber of Commerce President/CEO

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