West Virginia Department of Commerce Success Stories

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Success Stories

West Virginia Split Rail – Good Fences Make Good Neighbors

Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Robert Frost penned the famous line, “Good fences make good neighbors,” and the folks at West Virginia Split Rail (WVSR) couldn’t agree more. That’s why this family-owned business has manufactured split-rail fencing since 1929, and today produces the equivalent of seven million board feet per year.
A division of West Virginia Forest Products (WVFP), WVSR is located in Buckhannon, W.Va., just two hours south of Pittsburgh in the heart of the Hardwood Alliance Zone. Jim Hinkle, president of WVFP, is the third generation of his family to run the company.

“West Virginia Forest Products has found a growing market niche in a shrinking marketplace because of our location in West Virginia,” Hinkle said. “Transportation lanes out of the state have improved by leaps and bounds over the past decade to offset the rising cost of fuel, and the work ethic in West Virginia is very strong - a day’s work for a day's pay is truly found here.”

WVSR caters to the do-it-yourself landowner who wants to enjoy the benefits of natural fencing without feeling the wallet-pinching cost of professional installation. WVSR is distinctively smooth due to the log peeling process and is treated to prevent mold and mildew. Fence posts are produced from red pine or locust, while either white pine or poplar is used for the rails. Installation is easy and requires only a posthole shovel, string and level to get the project started. The company’s user-friendly Web site, www.wvsr.com, features an online catalog, installation instructions and distributor information.

West Virginia Forest Products:
Employs approximately 75 people
Manufactures components for pallets and wood packaging
Obtains 99 percent of all raw materials from West Virginia sawmills
Made capital investments of nearly $2 million since 2002
Has five year goal to increase sales by 50 percent

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Allegheny Treenware – An American Dream Becomes Reality

Stan and Sue Jennings met in 1984 while working in an underground coal mine but the next year found themselves unemployed. After several years of working dead-end jobs, the West Virginia couple decided to take a leap of faith and pursue their dreams of owning a woodworking business.

Today the couple owns and operates Allegheny Treenware, a company specializing in wooden kitchen products such as bowls, cutting boards and serving utensils. Each item is handcrafted from West Virginia hardwoods including cherry, maple, birch, beech and walnut.

“The state’s abundant natural resources make West Virginia the ideal location for setting up a wood products business,” the Jennings said.

Stan and Sue have received accolades for their work including:
“Best of Show” at the 1996 Mountain State Arts and Crafts Fair
“Best Demonstrator” at the 1997 Yankee Peddler Festival
Inclusion in the 1999 Early American Homes Top 200 Traditional Craftsman Directory
Invitation to craft a Christmas tree ornament for the White House
Commission to build and stock a private label for “The Greenbrier Gourmet” for The Greenbrier resort

Allegheny Treenware is available in state at the couple’s store located 10 miles east of Grafton, and also at Tamarack, The Greenbrier and various West Virginia state parks’ gift shops. The Jennings also sell their wares at various art shows and folk art festivals throughout the eastern United States. The Broadmoor hotel and resort in Colorado Springs, CO, features Allegheny Treenware, as do some of the nation’s finest gift shops, galleries and private collections. Allegheny Treenware’s Web site, www.spooners.com, features a product catalog for convenient online shopping.

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Collins Hardwood Doing the Right Thing

When the oldest industrial plant site in West Virginia was put up for sale in 2005, the people of Richwood, W.Va., were concerned. After all, this mill had been in operation since 1901, and they wondered what economic effects the sale of one of the town’s oldest businesses would have on the population of 2,800 residents. Luckily, The Collins Companies purchased the mill and immediately began making improvements including adding new equipment and jobs, and increasing the employees’ wages and benefits.

“The Collins Companies’ purchase of the Richwood mill was very good, not only for the mill and the employees, but also for the Richwood community,” said mill manager Ernest Lake.

The Collins Companies has long been known for doing the right thing. The first privately-owned forest products company in the nation to be independently certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), The Collins Companies is committed to timber resource sustainability, ecosystem health and community enhancement. Collins also is working to certify its forests and subsequent products under the Green Cross label, an indication that the company’s forest management practices meet or exceed standards set forth by the FSC.

Collins Hardwood Richwood:
Employs 72 people on 29-acre site
Facilities include sawmill, dry kiln and planing mill
Sawmill has capacity to process 20 MMBF annually
Dry kiln has capacity to process 13 MMBF annually
Products include veneer logs, rough and surfaced lumber, and lumber for domestic use and export

For more information, visit the Web site, www.CollinsWood.com

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Caperton Furnitureworks: Old-fashioned Success

Specializes in antique reproductions
Handcrafts each piece of furniture, often using 19th woodworking techniques
Contracts with individual workshops, many owned by Amish and Mennonite families
Hand-builds half of furniture in West Virginia
Works exclusively with solid wood

In 1996, Gat Caperton purchased a small furniture manufacturer named Tom Seely Furniture, a company that had for 40 years handcrafted antique reproductions from solid wood. Today, under the leadership of Caperton, the company, now named Caperton Furnitureworks, continues to provide top-quality, handcrafted pieces that showcase the individual craftsmanship that was the trademark of Tom Seely Furniture. Caperton Furnitureworks features three lines: "Tom Seely Furniture," specializing in antique reproductions as well as the "GatCreek" line and "The Joe Ruggiero Collection".

Half of all the company’s furniture is built in West Virginia. To fill the other half of the company’s needs, Caperton Furnitureworks contracts with more than 25 individual workshops in Ohio and Pennsylvania to build the antique reproductions the company is famous for. Many of these workshops are owned by Amish and Mennonite families, who continue to utilize woodworking techniques from the 19th century.

Because Caperton Furnitureworks continues to make furniture the old-fashioned way the company has become a 21st century success story.

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West Virginia’s forests are making the grade

West Virginia is the third most heavily forested state with 12 million acres of forestland
78% of West Virginia’s land is forested
98% of the forest land is considered timberland and available for timber production
Oak/hickory is the dominant forest-type group
Half of wood harvested is from oak species

The scores are in and West Virginia’s forests are getting high marks. Results of a federal Forest Analysis and Inventory show that the Mountain State’s hardwood forests are sustainable despite increased harvests.

West Virginia is the third most heavily forested state in the nation with more than 78% of the land covered with forest. Oak/hickory (oaks, hickory, yellow-poplar, black locust, sweetgum and red maple) is the dominant forest-type group. Half of the wood harvested is from oak species.

Ninety-eight percent of the forested land is considered timberland and available for timber production. Eight-seven percent of West Virginia’s forested land is privately owned.

West Virginia’s forests are making the grade by meeting the industry’s needs and thriving. For more information contact the West Virginia Division of Forestry

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The West Virginia Wood Technology Center’s Lumber Inspection Training Program

Nationally recognized hardwoods technology training center
Partners with National Hardwood Lumber Association to provide NHLA sanctioned training to central Appalachia
14-week program trains students to be lumber inspectors
Modern training facility offers hands-on experience
Assists with job placement upon course completion

The West Virginia Wood Technology Center (WTC), located in Elkins, W.Va., is a nationally recognized center that provides training for those interested ina career in the wood industry . In 2002, the WTC partnered with the National Hardwood Lumber Association (NHLA) and Fairmont State Community and Technical College to provide NHLA sanctioned training in hardwood lumber grading and inspection .

The highly esteemed 14-week program offers extensive hands-on training, and provides classroom instruction by NHLA trained lumber inspector. Lumber inspectors are needed throughout the wood industry in facilities ranging from sawmills and dry kilns to flooring plants. While at the center, each student receives the practical skills and experience needed to work as a lumber inspector. Lumber grading is a respected, high paying position and a strong demand for lumber inspectors gives graduates many opportunities to find employment.

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WV Forest Products Industry Directory