Louisiana forest products companies have a new way to reach customers worldwide with the recent launch of an Internet Web site. Developed jointly by the LSU AgCenter and the Louisiana Department of Economic Development, the site allows wood products buyers anywhere in the world to search online for products and raw materials available from participating Louisiana companies.

Unveiled during the Governor's Rural Development conference in Natchitoches, La., the Web site is good for Louisiana businesses, officials say. “For the first time, wood products buyers anywhere in the world can search online for Louisiana manufacturers that meet their unique purchase needs,” said Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco. “This Web site helps companies, whether in Louisiana or elsewhere, to find Louisiana suppliers of their raw materials.”

Titled “Louisiana Forest Products Community,” the Web address is www.laforestproducts.org.

“We do a good job of growing and harvesting trees,” said Richard Vlosky, director of the Louisiana Forest Product Development Center, a unit of the LSU AgCenter's School of Renewable Natural Resources. “But we need to improve the secondary industry sector by adding value to the manufactured products.”

The forest industry is the second leading manufacturing industry and the largest agricultural industry in Louisiana. It contributed $3.8 billion to the state's economy last year, and its manufacturing and harvesting segments employ 27,000 people.

The new Web site serves as a directory of Louisiana forest-sector companies. It also provides an opportunity for potential customers to submit lists of their needs so Louisiana companies can offer their products and services in response to those requests.

C.A. “Buck” Vandersteen, executive director of the Louisiana Forestry Association, said the forestry community will benefit from the Web site, because more people will be able to search the Web site and make purchases or find the services they need. In addition to the manufacturers and raw materials listings, the Web site also will have a list of trained loggers — which will help landowners harvest their timber in a sustainable manner, Vandersteen said.

“It's a voluntary community to bring buyers and sellers together,” said Vlosky, who helped develop the site and serves as its moderator. He said that as far as he knows, the Louisiana Web site is the only one of its kind.

“It will increase the marketing reach for Louisiana products,” he said.

Vlosky said the site features a self-generating directory in which any company meeting the product line criteria can include its information. He said he anticipates between 300 and 400 companies will eventually participate.

“Invitation letters are being mailed to the Louisiana forestry community, encouraging them to participate in the Web site,” Vlosky said. “This is an opportunity for a company to increase its exposure and add value to the products it markets.”