Lab Will Benefit Timber Industry Seminars Target Mill Employees

Article excerpt

ATLANTA -- Turning Georgia's timber riches into jobs and cash is the main purpose of a new lab that will begin operating next month at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Georgia has the largest stand of commercial timber in the country, yet it lags other states in nearly every category of wood-products production except pulp and paper.

"We're almost going the way of the textile and apparel industry in the Southeast," said Steven Lawser, executive director of the Wood Component Association. "We're shipping those logs and lumber overseas, and they are shipping it back here in the form of finished goods."

Lawser said labor and imports are the biggest problems facing the 156 Georgia companies that are members of his association.

For six years, Tom Galloway, dean of Tech's College of Architecture, has been talking with industry leaders and government officials about establishing the Advanced Wood Products Laboratory. Finally, with help from former Gov. Zell Miller and Italian machine manufacturer SCM Group, Galloway is opening the doors of a $5 million facility that is the largest of its kind in North America.

It will begin by offering seminars to mill managers and workers on how to best use the latest computer-guided machinery. A converted recreational vehicle with eight computer work stations will travel the state for on-site classes.

But beyond teaching, the lab will conduct research in conjunction with Tech faculty in engineering, chemistry and industrial design as well as the University of Georgia School of Forestry. Experts will search for ways to improve efficiency, reduce waste and lessen the environmental impact from certain processes such as the application of finishes. …