Changes have taken place in the United States economy over the past several years attributable to the overall global economic environment. As a result of the weakened U.S. economy, there is reduced demand for lumber and other wood-based products utilized within the housing market sector. The forest product industry plays a vital role in economic conditions within forest dependent communities, where few opportunities exist outside of forest industrial employment. The current economic climate makes it now more important than ever to develop new and multi-faceted uses for the natural resources that are readily available in forest dependent areas, allowing individuals an additional means to generate income aside from mainstream industry. One possible means for utilizing available natural resources is through forest microenterprises that incorporate the use of portable sawmills.
This research incorporates a mix of surveys and interviews with portable sawmill owners to understand the structure of portable sawmill ownership and microenterprise existence throughout the United States, how portable sawmills are adopted and information about them diffused, and the application of portable sawmills in a forest management strategy, including forging cooperative agreements between portable sawmill owners and Alabama forestland owners. Results of this research illustrate the ways in which forest based microenterprises that utilize portable sawmills offer a means of income generation utilizing available timber resources, as well the ability to be used as part of a forest management strategy. As a whole, this research is exploratory in nature as it is currently the first in the United States documenting portable sawmill ownership patterns, regional variations, adoption/diffusion of portable sawmill microenterprises, and general entrepreneurial spirit among owners.