10:45 AM

Economic Evolution – Ensuring Progress

Mr. Ken Muehlenfeld
Forest Products Development Center

Forest Industry Economic Development in the U.S. South – Expanding Opportunities

The forest industry provides unique and highly impactful economic development opportunities for the rural South. Following the most severe industry recession in a generation, business conditions have steadily improved with capital investment rising broadly across most forest industry sectors. Driven by improving business fundamentals, a strong timber resource base, and pro-business operating environments, the South is poised to continue an upward trend in capital investments for new and expanding forest industry.


Ken comes to EXPO 2017 with twenty-seven years of experience as the Director of the Forest Products Development Center based in Auburn, Alabama. He works with the Alabama Department of Commerce, handling forest industry and bioenergy projects. He also coordinates forest industry economic development activities with public and private agencies and organizations. He specializes in timber and fiber resource analysis, solid wood products operations asset evaluation and new business feasibility studies. Ken has an undergraduate degree in Forestry from the University of Missouri and his Master’s in Industrial Management from the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Mr. Steve Singleton
Southern Pine Inspection Bureau

Training Lumber Graders in Today’s World of Automated Grading

Southern Pine Inspection Bureau leaders will discuss how modern technological trends in lumber grading creates a need for a modern training methodology.  Opportunities for learning to grade lumber the old fashion way by OJT on the production line is disappearing.  Mills with automated grading machines need internal lumber quality auditors that can grade but are also multi skilled and come from varying backgrounds.  SPIB’s eLearning course will be demonstrated by Chuck Miceli and Tom Baker as well as ways to utilize grading agencies for training.


Mr. Singleton began his career in forest products in 1983. He worked in various positions including product quality, sales/inventory management, and production management.  He became VP and general manager of the Canfor Southern Pine sawmill in Camden SC in 1996. After leaving Canfor at the end of 2012 Mr. Singleton served a brief stint in wood procurement and timberland management for Charles Ingram Lumber Company.  He has held the position of President of the Southern Pine Inspection Bureau since September 2013.

Mr. Singleton has a BA in Interdisciplinary Studies with a concentration in management from the University of South Carolina.  He has completed various programs and courses in leadership, operations management, and forestry.

Mr. Singleton is active in his community and has served as a director on the United Way, Chamber of Commerce, Regional Education Center Advisory Board, and an elder at Bethesda Presbyterian Church as well as other various boards and volunteer work.  He was named Timber Processing Magazine Man of the Year for 2009.  He was named South Carolina Ambassador for Economic Development for Kershaw County for 2010.

Mr. Chuck Miceli
Southern Pine Inspection Bureau


Chuck Miceli’s diverse background in the forest products industry includes 15 years experience with the Southern Pine Inspection Bureau, the last 10 of which as a District Supervisor. Chuck Miceli produced the first computer based training and improvement programs dedicated to Softwood Dimension Lumber Grading for the Forest Products Industry. Miceli has over 35 years of education, research, training, and consulting experience in forestry, wood science, lumber production, lumber inspection and quality control. He has personally trained and supervised dozens of lumber inspectors, and hundreds of lumber graders for the lumber industry throughout the United States and Canada. He has worked as a lumber inspector, training consultant, quality control manager, expert witness, research assistant, and sales representative.

Mr. Tom Baker
Southern Pine Inspection Bureau


Tom graduated Oklahoma State University in 1986 with a degree in Forestry management. He worked in Forestry Research for OSU and the USFS before becoming a Quality Supervisor for SPIB in 1987. He is now an Area Manager for SPIB and is responsible for wood product manufacturing facilities in Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, Alabama and Georgia. Tom is certified in the grading of all Southern Pine lumber products and is experienced as a grading course instructor for SPIB. He has worked with the start-up and monitoring of all major brands of Automated Grading Systems since the inception of this technology.

Dr. Brian Via
Auburn University

Research and Education for the Forest Products Industry

The forest products lumber industry is continuously trying to improve their resources; i.e., raw material and human capital.  This presentation will briefly discuss our ongoing research efforts to use acoustics in trees to select for quality.  We will also discuss our new undergraduate curriculum proposal titled, “Sustainable Biomaterials and Packaging.”  This new curriculum will assist us in pumping new employees into one of the largest markets (forest products) within Alabama and the Southeast.


Dr. Brian Via will be Full Professor in August 2017, is the Regions Bank Professor of Wood Products and is currently the Director of the Forest Products Development Center in the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences at Auburn University where he has participated in over $23 million in team funding since 2008.  His most recent grant from AFRI-NIFA starts in February 2017 in which he is making hydrophobic wood composites from bio-oil-epoxy adhesives.  His Center currently collaborates with 25 industrial and landowner partners and is working with Alabama companies to improve wood quality and make sustainable adhesives for wood composites.  Via and colleagues have a patent pending for using soy flour in OSB for cost reduction worth $1 to $1.5 million in cost savings per mill.

He has recently started an Advisory Board for the Center with 7 members including the United Soybean Board, Norbord, Huber, Louisiana Pacific, Westervelt, Timber Products, and Regions Bank.  This Advisory Board has been helpful in the guidance and support of a new undergraduate curriculum called Sustainable Biomaterials and Packaging.

Dr. Via is interested in wood quality, the effect of wood quality on wood product performance, new rapid characterization of wood chemistry, modeling wood property performance from chemistry, and bio-based adhesives for wood composites.  Dr. Via received his Bachelor degree in Forest Products and his Master degree in Wood Mechanics at Virginia Tech. He obtained his Ph.D. in Forest Biomaterial Chemometrics at Louisiana State University. He has spent 7 years in an industrial research environment at both International Paper and Louisiana Pacific. At International Paper, he studied the effects of wood quality on paper and lumber performance including genetic and silviculture effects. At Louisiana Pacific, his primary roles included new product development, statistical process control, and statistical modeling in composite manufacturing.