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A Day of Giving gift to WVU Davis College is a gift to state economy

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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — A gift made to West Virginia University on the Day of Giving could lead to the creation of new technologies, processes and products benefiting the Mountain State’s forestry industry.   

The Forestland Group Legacy Foundation gave $100,000 to the WVU Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design to support the Appalachian Forestry Entrepreneurship Center, a place for fostering new ventures and driving innovation in forestry. 

The Appalachian Forestry Entrepreneurship Center was established in 2023 to prepare students to meet the current needs of the forestry industry such as updated harvesting technologies and ways to reduce processing costs.

Jason Hubbart, associate dean of research and interim director of the AFEC, has been fundraising for two years to get the center off the ground.  

“The forestry industry is suffering in the state and is at almost record low profits,” he said. “There’s a need for new products and innovations all the way from how a lumber mill is run and managed to new ways to use wood for innovative products.”

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Professor of forestry Joseph McNeel said he has students and colleagues alike who have ideas to reinvigorate the industry. McNeel recently worked on creating creating new ways to use wood from low grade lumber.

“The AFEC could provide a way for forestry firms to use more low-value hardwoods, particularly low-grade red oak lumber, which is produced in large volumes across the state,” McNeel said. 

After the AFEC’s inception, an entrepreneurial course was added to the forestry curriculum. The class educates students about the industry’s need for innovation and the entrepreneurial process. The curriculum also includes a course in which students develop a unique product and follow it from conception to completion.  

“This funding and the Center’s guidance could be of tremendous benefit to our students in bringing their ideas to fruition,” McNeel added. 

Chris Zinkhan, president of The Forestland Group Legacy Foundation, made the gift to the Davis College to bring his vision of a “thriving forest with a robust entrepreneurship ecosystem” to life.

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“The AFEC will help fund and establish ventures while motivating and developing students into entrepreneurs, which will bring positive changes to Appalachian forestry firms,” Zinkhan said. “This Center has the capability to build lasting wealth and prosperity for the Appalachian region and its people.”

Zinkhan plans to be engaged in the AFEC by working with faculty, speaking in classes and seminars, and advising students’ new ventures.

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 and Instagram by following @WVUDavis.  



Communications Specialist 
Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design