Spring 2012 Newsletter available: Message from the Director

After one of the nicest winters on record in Blacksburg, we graduated approximately 5000 students this week from Virginia Tech. It is amazing how fast the semesters go by and new groups of students enter our college. Our programs continue to evolve to meet the needs of our students and to serve our industry partners. To better reflect what our faculty are doing and to broaden our appeal to students, the department’s name has been changed to the Department of Sustainable Biomaterials. New degree programs are being developed to reflect our changing needs of students and industry. We had several companies on campus this spring interviewing our students for summer internships and full time positions, which hopefully reflects an up-tick in our industry.

CFPB Director's Bob Smith and CFPB editor's Scott Lyon visiting a wood products retailer in Panama during February 2010.

I have visited with many center members recently and there is a general feeling that our industry is slowly improving, but we will need to adjust to a smaller total domestic market for wood. I just taught our sales course at Oregon State University, and the class was fairly optimistic about the economy improving and companies are seeing an increase in export activity from the West coast. Those in the export market continue to see opportunities overseas. The market reports indicate now that over one-third of upper grade hardwoods are now ex-ported, and there is an increase in exports of softwood lumber. The housing predictors now say that it will be late in this decade before we get back to nor-mal housing starts and recent statistics show that houses are getting smaller.

All of this indicates that we need to work smarter, not necessarily harder. We need to get closer to our custom-ers and determine how we can serve them better, we need to be able to capture market opportunities when they arise, and to fine-tune our operations to be as efficient as possible. That is what our changes in the department are training our students to do. In this newsletter you will read about a project on energy auditing that is being led by Dr. Henry Quesada. Every dollar saved in energy or the elimination of any waste is a dollar right to the bottom line of the company. Dr. Earl Kline describes the efforts of the Wood Enterprise Institute (WEI), which is a student-run enterprise from market development to product manufacturing. It is a one-year program that allows our students to experience running a company, as well as dealing with company issues on a daily basis. The WEI is one way in which we are training our students to be better prepared to meet your needs.

I wish you a great summer and thank you for your continued support of our center. I hope you will visit us at our new web address (www.cfpb.vt.edu). If you have any questions, please contact me at rsmith4@vt.edu  or 540-231-7679.

Robert Smith
Director of the Center for Forest Products Business

To access the Spring 2012 newsletter, please follow this link