A gift from the Weyerhaeuser Co. Foundation is helping Mississippi State’s Institute of Furniture Manufacturing and Management deliver educational programs to the state's furniture manufacturers. A $25,000 grant will provide distance-learning equipment and technologies for the university's Franklin Center that officially opened in January. Providing workforce education and training that will maintain the state's international competitiveness is the institute’s primary focus, said director Steve Bullard. "Manufacturing industries, including furniture companies and their suppliers, have been impacted in recent years by imports," Bullard said. "Primarily, this involves countries where wages are much lower and production costs are less because of fewer regulations in areas such as the environment and working conditions." Created in 2001, the furniture institute is a multi-disciplinary effort involving Mississippi State's colleges of Business and Industry, Forest Resources, Engineering, and Architecture, Art and Design, along with the Forest and Wildlife Research Center and Extension Service. The institute builds on a 17-year history of wood-product research, technical assistance and continuing education the university has provided to the state and region. "We have the largest furniture research program in North America," said Bob L. Karr, dean of the College of Forest Resources, which this year celebrates its 50th anniversary. "We are grateful for all of the financial support provided by the Weyerhaeuser Co. and Foundation over the years." Previous partnerships between the university and Weyerhaeuser have included forest management, wildlife research and the development of ChoiceFrame, a joint-by-joint furniture frame strength tool. "It’s been a good relationship and partnership between MSU and Weyerhaeuser over the years," said Ben Jones, manager for Weyerhaeuser’s Mississippi-Alabama timberlands region. "Weyerhaeuser is proud to be able to provide these funds to further support furniture education in Mississippi." Since 1948, the Weyerhaeuser Foundation has directed more than $162 million to the communities where Weyerhaeuser employees live and work. Nationwide, the foundation’s annual philanthropic budget totals $10 million. For further information, contact Jeff Little of MSU at 662-325-8151 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.