Recovery Act brings greenbacks and green industry to Asheville

Local partners and federal officials joined USDA Forest Service Southern Research Station staff Tuesday, Aug. 31, for a tour of The Boggs Collective: an Asheville-based, sustainability-oriented fine woodworking operation which received a grant of nearly $100,000 from the Land-of-Sky Regional Council’s WNC Forest Products Cooperative Marketing Project. That project is funded by federal dollars from the Recovery Act. The Southern Research Station and Land-of-Sky Regional Council sponsored the tour, which was conducted by The Boggs Collective co-owners Melanie Moeller and Brian Boggs.


photo courtesy of The Boggs Collective

The Boggs Collective, located on London Road near Biltmore Village, is using the grant to advance a networking enterprise for fine woodworkers and develop a cooperative workshop, woodshed, woodworking school and virtual gallery to support craftspeople and sustainable forest producers.

“This grant helped propel a vision,” said Brian Boggs, describing the forward movement of the business concept he’s developed with Moeller. The couple employ some time-tested elements, as in days of old:  They hire young woodworkers into a mentoring relationship with Boggs, an expert craftsman, and design heirloom-quality furniture in his established shop. But they add an element born of modern green sensibilities: a commitment to sustainable forest products used to produce pieces of fine furniture.

As an example, Boggs points to the materials used to create the hickory-caned seats on his chairs. “The current process is not sustainable — killing a tree for its skin,” he says. “Why not work with trees that are already cut?” Boggs developed a machine that utilizes the wood that most milling operations leave behind as waste. “It cuts strips, shaves off the bark, then shaves again and splits the fibers to produce the 1/10,000-inch-consistency bark weavers [need] to create cane seats. This process takes a wasted product and converts it to a highly valued commodity.”

“This is the first FSC-certified shop in all of North Carolina,” according to Stevin Westcott, press officer with the Forest Service Southern Research Station. The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) provides certification for sustainably-grown and harvested forest products, investigating both forest management activities (forest certification) and tracking of forest products (chain-of-custody certification) to ensure they’re sustainable.

“It’s so positive and empowering,” said a smiling Alyx Perry, director of the Southern Forests Network, which is working to promote community-based solutions for sustaining healthy forests. “We’re not just moaning over the ecological problems of the world — we’re finding and enacting the solutions. It’s a lot more fun.”

“The work happening here at The Boggs Collective is a great example of the impact the Recovery Act dollars are having in cities and towns across the country,” said Jim Reaves, director of the Southern Research Station. “This project is among more than a dozen projects funded by our Recovery Act partner, Land-of-Sky Regional Council, that are providing employment for local residents and helping to boost the forest products industry and economy of Western North Carolina.”

The Southern Research Station received $1.974 million in Recovery Act funds to put people to work and boost the economy of the region. The station awarded the Recovery Act grant to the Land-of-Sky Regional Council in a competitive selection process. Land-of-Sky officials say the organization’s cooperative marketing project is anticipated to put at least 140 people to work across the region, with a total of four projects funded in Buncombe County.

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