Photo © UMD-NRRI
Entrepreneur John Bieganek, President and CEO of Superior Thermowood of Brainerd, is no stranger to the challenges of owning and operating a green business. Since beginning operations in 2006, his company has faced financial, marketing, building code and green wood supply challenges. Still, Mr. Bieganek, who has been instrumental in guiding Thermowood through these hurdles to make it the burgeoning business that it is today, remains committed to his work
Using a thermally modified wood process originally pioneered in Finland, Thermowood applies high temperature and steam to wood, changing its chemical properties and making it more stable, durable and resistant to rot and decay. The process does not use harmful chemicals; and by purchasing raw materials from local Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)-certified sources, Thermowood upholds a commitment to making the building of a deck or the installation of a new wood floor environmentally sound.
Because of its unique green business model, Thermowood received a $19,200 loan from ShadeFund to help finance an order of 4,000 pieces of thermally modified basswood for guitar fingerboards.
“It makes a difference to have ShadeFund capital in order for us to get the materials we need to expand our business and provide products to new markets,” said Bieganek. “As more consumers seek out sustainable ways to build, our wood products will become a more dominant force on the market.”
Building a successful company is a team effort. University of Minnesota Duluth Natural Resources Research Institute’s Product Development Funds played a critical role in helping Thermowood identify new markets and make connections throughout the wood products industry. “John's story is great,” said Patrick Donahue, Director of NRRI's Market Oriented Wood Technology program. “I'm so amazed at his tenacity and the investment he made.”
By lending to Thermowood, ShadeFund is taking a stake in the economic and environmental future of Aitkin County, Minnesota.
“What Thermowood is doing for the wood products industry of Aitkin County is adding value,” says Ross Wagner, Economic Development and Forestry Industry Coordinator in Aitkin County. “With their thermally modified wood process, they can open up markets in low value wood that traditionally would not have been viable.”
|ShadeFund is a program of The Conservation Fund, one of the country’s
top-ranked charities by Charity Navigator, and U.S. Endowment for
Forestry and Communities. Even though this is ShadeFund’s first loan to a
business in the “Land of 10,000 Lakes,” The Conservation Fund has been
working in the state since 1988 and has protected over 251,784 acres of
environmentally sensitive land and water.
“Businesses like Superior Thermowood help keep not only our communities vital but also our forests,” said Tom Duffus, Upper Midwest Director at The Conservation Fund. “Working forests, such as those The Conservation Fund has helped conserve in Minnesota, not only support recreation, wildlife, and water, but also jobs.”
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