Va. Tech gets grant for woodshop study

Virginia Tech's Department of Wood Science and Forest Products has received a $98,786 grant from the U.S. Forest Service to conduct a two-year study aimed at boosting business for small- to medium-sized woodworking shops.

The study will identify and survey shops with one to 500 employees in six states — Virginia, West Virginia, Ohio, Wisconsin, Tennessee and North Carolina — and be compiled into a Web-based searchable database. The survey will also assess the economic impacts and opportunities associated with the small to mid-sized shops, and provide an understanding of their training needs and constraints, according to Urs Buehlmann, an associate professor at Virginia Tech and coordinator of the study.

While there are several address databases of woodworking enterprises maintained by state agencies, none is complete, Buehlmann says. He hopes this new database, and the other information collected from the survey, will help small and mid-sized shops become better competitors in the U.S. and eventually win back business from offshore companies.

"Slowly but surely, the pendulum is swinging back. We've all talked about going offshore for the last 10 to 15 years. It's probably time some of that [business] is up for grabs, and I want to make sure the small business owner is [in the mix]," he says.

Once this study is complete, the next step is to expand the database for 29 other states.