And when you do, you will recognize many familiar faces because this is not a new organization, but rather the new name for the Bluewater Wood Alliance.
The new name comes as the result of a decision by the BWA board - that after more than a decade of growth – they needed to better reflect what the organization has become. Thus, on its 10th anniversary, the BWA becomes the WMCO.
BWA started as a small cluster of seven manufacturing companies in the Grey-Bruce, Huron Perth region of Ontario, which were feeling the pinch of the economic recession, and the pressure of foreign imports.
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 and invited each other into their factories to see each others’ 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 to start one in their area.
In January 2011, two representatives from the BWA went to the Cluster Academy in Linz, Austria, for cluster training.
The decision was made to form a cluster, which was incorporated in March 2011 as a non-profit industry-led cluster, the Bluewater Wood Alliance (BWA), with seven original board members. The BWA’s initial cluster region was defined as a one-to-two-hour radius from the Hanover-Walkerton area.
Industry clusters involve one industry, in a defined region, focused on manufacturing. They embrace supply chain, work with local academia for workforce development, and government partners to fund projects and activities, to help the industry thrive.
BWA then began to reach out to other companies in the region, along with the supply-chain companies, and began to hold quarterly networking events where suppliers and manufacturers could meet and discuss new technologies and further develop their business relationships.
By November 2012, they had grown to about 25 member companies and hired a cluster manager.
They then ramped up the frequency and variety of events to include plant tour Kaizen events, training, export development projects, and round table sessions on important topics.
In time, interest grew among wood manufacturing companies from all over Southwestern Ontario and membership continued to grow. Pretty soon, even companies from as far away as the Greater Toronto area and as far west as Chatham, south from the Niagara Region and north from Muskoka joined the alliance.
By 2016, the BWA had 80 members and decided to expand the official cluster region to include all of Southwestern Ontario to better serve the members, while also expanding the board of directors to 10 manufacturing members and two supply-chain members.
Networking and training events began to take place across SWO to best serve the expanded catchment area and diverse membership. Now, in 2021, the BWA is 10 years old, with more than 120 member companies, and it is time to redefine who they really are as an industry cluster, which is why they are proud to announce their new brand and name to better represent who they are today: The Wood Manufacturing Cluster of Ontario.
Ontario is home to the largest concentration of value-added wood manufacturing in Canada: $6.6 billion in revenues, with about 2,000 companies and some 30,000 employees and $1.2 billion in payroll. (Source: Conference Board of Canada, Wood Manufacturing Council, 2016).
Have a look at their new website here.
Link to brand launch video here.
Link to testimonial video “What members have to say” here.