The City of Thunder Bay has a strong economic history in the forestry sector. Since the early 1900s, the forestry sector has contributed to the city’s economic growth. Since then, structural changes have occurred in the sector, both locally and internationally. Threats to traditional forestry operations were followed by local stakeholder initiatives to foster growth in a new forestry bioeconomy cluster. Today, Thunder Bay is proud to be home to not only the largest sawmill east of the Rockies, but also pilot plants and research centres within the forest bioeconomy sector rooted in the region’s economic structure.

The Benefits of Mass Timber Workforce Communities – A Study for Northwestern Mining Workforce Communities

In response to the imminent surge in mineral exploration and processing, the Thunder Bay Community Economic Development Commission (CEDC) is pleased to announce the release of a comprehensive study exploring the advantages of integrating Mass Timber, with a focus on Cross-Laminated Timber (CLT), in the mining sector’s infrastructure. The study was made possible by the support of the Centre for Research and Innovation in Bio-economy (CRIBE)

Why Invest in Thunder Bay's Bioeconomy

The Thunder Bay region is located at a logistical crossroads for rail, pipelines, and naval shipping. As Ontario’s largest northern community, it also has access to remote communities further north of the city. The region is closer physically to Duluth and Minneapolis in the State of Minnesota, and to Winnipeg than to the population centres of Southern Ontario. 

In addition, Thunder Bay is presently and has historically been home to major forestry industries usually linked to the pulp and paper industry. Leading to the development of further downstream industries in the forestry bioeconomy. 

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Thunder Bay’s existing logistic and utility infrastructure to transport commodities in and out of the region is one of its greatest assets. The ability to transport the materials effectively by water, rail, and road offer potential investor connections to reach downstream markets and access to pertinent materials in their supply chain. The existing pipelines offer market access and the potential to develop the biofuels industry.

Forestry Supply Chain


Research Centers

Investment Ready Talent Pool

Opportunities for Thunder Bay’s Bioeconomy

Wood Supply – Underutilization of Birch and Poplar

The supply of wood in the region is considered adequate for SPF species, but there is an underutilisation of birch and poplar, in particular, in the immediate areas surrounding Thunder Bay.

There appears to be a lack of processing capacity for birch and poplar in the area. As the principal industrial forestry processing capacity is more focused on SPF (White and Black Spruce, Jack Pine and Balsam Fir), birch and poplar are not as sought out but must be harvested as part of SPF harvesting operations. This results in an oversupply and comparative lack of processing capacity for specific species.

Because there is not enough processing capacity, the surplus of birch and poplar are problematic from a supply chain management point of view (e.g., they must be “used” once harvested). Therefore, the surplus is an important opportunity to bring in companies that may have uses on an industrial scale for these underused woods in the region.

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Development of Bioeconomy Sub Sectors with the highest potential of success in Thunder Bay

Engineered wood





Need more information about Bioeconomy in Thunder Bay? 

Geospatial Solutions For Economic Development

Learn about the diverse forest practices & policies that govern Ontario’s Forestry & Forest product sector. As you scroll through the different topics please take time to explore the interactive maps, dashboards & data that has been configured using Ontario’s government open sources.

Forest Edge has brought together industry & GIS expertise to create user friendly tools & resources for you to better understand Ontario’s boreal forest ecosystem & the role of forest products in Ontario’s growing bio-economy.


Lakehead University

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Lakehead University, a regional university with a strong presence in biotechnology research, constitutes a major asset to Thunder Bay. The University touts its research strengths in advanced technology, biorefining, materials sciences, and natural resources. Researchers in these fields are assets as they relate to R&D work that could be undertaken by private investors locating in the region.

Lakehead is particularly well suited to research in the forestry industry and is currently working on forestry mapping and maximizing forestry usage initiatives, depending on the end-use.

Centre for Research & Innovation in the Bio-economy (CRIBE)

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The CRIBE is an independent and not-for-profit corporation set-up to support innovation to commercialization in value-added forestry. The Center’s presence in Thunder Bay is a clear signal to investors that the region is dedicated to getting more out of the provincial forestry industry. 

Projects funded by CRIBE have been used to fund pilot projects in biofuels, mapping, and surveying forest resources, technology development, and anything else in line with value-added to the forestry industry. 


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FPInnovations is a private, not-for-profit organization that specializes in creating solutions in support of Canada’s forestry industry with an emphasis on the development of new technology. Its R&D labs are located in Montreal, Quebec City, and Vancouver.

In addition to its main labs, the organization operates satellite research facilities. In Thunder Bay, FPInnovations operates a world-class, state-of-the-art Bio-Economy Technology Centre with a focus on lignin extraction for use in both biofuels and biochemicals. The Centre itself is located within Resolute’s Thunder Bay facilities. (Button with link to website)

Confederation College

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Confederation College is an Applied Arts and Technology college with multiple campuses in Northwestern Ontario; the main campus is located in Thunder Bay. The average size of the student body is 6,500 full- and part-time students per year.
The College offers some key programs to the forestry industry: technical degrees related to forestry, environmental management, transportation and logistics, mechanical engineering (skilled trade), etc. (Button with link to website)

Northwestern Ontario Innovation Centre

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The Northwestern Ontario Innovation Centre supports innovative companies from the product development stage to commercialization as they look to start and grow their companies in Northwestern Ontario. NOIC helps new and existing companies build connections, find funding and resources, grow business skills, and provides training opportunities.

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Learn more about Thunder Bay & Northwestern Ontario

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