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WVU Davis College receives $101K to create forestry entrepreneurship opportunities

Young man cutting wood

Forestry is an integral industry in West Virginia that needs innovative products from creative entrepreneurs. Now, those in the Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design will have the resources to bring their inventive ideas to fruition. 

The Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation recently awarded West Virginia University Davis College $101,000 to start the Appalachian Forestry Entrepreneurship Center, a place for fostering new ventures and driving innovation in forestry. 

“From tree cultivation and harvesting to lumber milling and product development, innovators from all sectors of Appalachia's forestry and natural resources industry will be empowered to transform their ideas into tangible realities,” Jason Hubbart, interim associate dean of research for Davis College, said. 

The grant will help prepare students to solve the current issues of the industry like the need for new technology in harvesting timber and ways to reduce wood processing costs. The center will teach students to think critically about these challenges and how to create solutions. Hubbart hopes to see professors and students patenting products and ideas, so they maintain ownership rights to market their products. 

William Woodrum, senior program officer for the Benedum Foundation, and Hubbart both believe that helping Mountaineers with a vision now will create new job opportunities in the future, fostering overall economic development in the state. 

Young man climbing tree

West Virginia is the third most forested state in the nation. As part of a land-grant institution, Davis College prepares students to successfully contribute to the industry and to the state by managing forested lands, conserving wildlife habitats and complying with environmental regulations.  

“This project is an opportunity to reinvent an existing strength of the West Virginia economy — our extensive forests — that has been critical to economic development for 160 years,” Woodrum said. “By continuing to be innovative and building on our successes, we can keep our economy competitive in the 21st century.” 

According to, the forestry industry is active in all 55 counties, totaling 30,000 jobs and generating $3.2 billion annually. With 12 million acres of forestland, West Virginia is the second-leading hardwood state in the U.S.  

“Most forestry programs are serving to prepare students for careers in government or corporate work,” Woodrum said. “The Appalachian Forestry Entrepreneurship Center will provide a new career pathway for students to consider.”  

Hubbart will serve as the interim and inaugural director of the Appalachian Forestry Entrepreneurship Center. A program coordinator will be hired in fall 2023. Hubbart plans to collaborate with other entrepreneurship-focused organizations. Regardless of where a student or professor may be in the process of developing a product or starting a business, there will be resources to facilitate their progress, whether it be the Appalachian Forestry Entrepreneurship Center, the LaunchLab, Vantage Ventures or others.  

Young man smiling in a tree

“Where do we take folks to think about solving a problem? Where do we take them to innovate a solution? Where do we take them to create a prototype?” Hubbart asked. “I want to connect all those stages of innovation and entrepreneurship so they can get support in the beginning, middle or end, and so we can meet them where they are in the process.” 

The funds will also support an anticipated symposium scheduled for the spring of 2024. It will bring diverse voices from the forest products industry together, showcasing the latest advancements in wood science technologies, carbon markets and other forest-related ventures. 

The gift was made through the WVU Foundation, the nonprofit organization that receives and administers private donations on behalf of the University. 

The Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design envisions a world sustainably fed, clothed and sheltered. To learn more about the Davis College, visit Keep up with the latest updates and news on Facebook, Twitter,  Instagram and YouTube by following @WVUDavis.   



CONTACT: Leah Smith    

Communications Specialist  

Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design