Drs. Henry Quesada, Brian Bond, and Bob Smith represented the Department of Sustainable Biomaterials at the Virginia Forest Products Association’s 37th East Coast Sawmill and Logging Equipment Exposition in Richmond Virginia on May 21st-22nd, 2021. The show was delayed from last year due to the pandemic. It is the largest forest products show east of the Mississippi river and drew over 4,000 people to review the latest technology available in the industry. 

The College of Natural Resources and Environment and the Department of Sustainable Biomaterials have been cosponsors of this event for over 40 years. Our faculty were there to advertise the department and keep our presence in front of the industry. The whole trade show was a great networking and relationship-building opportunity for SBIO as there were many association and industry booths, as well as government agencies, publishing companies, and industry consultants. Virginia Tech was the only college represented at the trade show.

The expo website provided the following details about the types of equipment being demonstrated and sold: “It's no secret that the East Coast Sawmill and Logging Equipment Exposition has become America's leading trade show for the forest products industry. The exposition offers the year's largest collection of sawmilling, kiln drying, harvesting, biomass, trucking, pallet manufacturing/recycling, optimization/scanning, material handling, firewood production and related equipment, supplies and services. Attendees can compare their current equipment to the latest state-of- the-art, most technologically advanced equipment on the market. The extensive amount of equipment displayed, along with active product and machinery demonstrations both indoors and outdoors, provide the unique "hands-on" aspect of the Richmond show.”

Attendees of this conference included a lot of friends of the department and past alumni who stopped by the SBIO booth to get updates on our department and reconnect with our faculty. There were many industry vendors stopping by to introduce themselves and their products to Quesada, Bond and Smith in hopes that they would help spread the word about their new products to other industry members who may be in need of the machinery and technology being offered. There were even a few high school aged students that came by to talk about possibly choosing our department as their college home.

Everyone was very excited to get to meet in-person again and a majority stated that they were very happy that masks were no longer required. They all wanted to know the status of the VT football team and how we thought the Hokies would do this fall as things return to normal. Attendees told our faculty that the lumber mills are having a hard time finding workers. They’d like to be able to run a second shift as the product demand is up, but they can’t find/keep the employees needed for the extra work. There is also a shortage of truck drivers which has caused the transportation costs to sky-rocket to $5.00 per mile (over double what it was before the pandemic started). Despite these issues, the attendees of the show were very optimistic about the state of the forest products industry.

The show will be held again next year, May 20-21, 2022, to get back on its regular schedule of being held biannually on even-numbered years.