Alumni Form Lumber Company

Don Bright (‘98 B.S. in wood science) knew Vance Wright (‘94 B.S. in forestry), who knew Gary Robertson (‘93 B.S. in forestry) since grade school. The three, who have all been involved in logging or lumber businesses in Southside Virginia since graduation, started Meherrin River Forest Products in Alberta, Va., in July, along with Wright’s brother, Alan. They purchased an existing sawmill on a site that has housed a lumber company since the early 20th century, with hopes to ramp up production from its current level of 8 million board feet per year to 11.5 million board feet per year, the mill’s 2007 production level. Lumber produced at the 24-employee facility is used in pallets, cabinets, furniture, flooring, and other applications.

Although the industry took a hit in 2008, the partners see signs of improvement in the economy and remain optimistic. “We feel we have a great opportunity to grow,” said Bright, who left his position as vice president for Morgan lumber Company, where he had been employed since graduation, to take the helm as president of Meherrin River Forest Products. Robertson and the Wrights are not as involved in day-to-day operations but take part in decision making and
overall management. They continue to run their timber buying and timberland management company, union level land and Timber, as well as their own logging operations.

All of the partners lead full lives. For the past 21 years, Robertson has been active in the Buckhorn Volunteer Fire Department, responding to at least half of the calls at all hours, and has a farm operation with his father, raising cattle, soybeans, and corn. Vance Wright has been Concord Baptist Association’s disaster relief coordinator and enjoys mission work. He and his wife, Laurie (‘96 B.S. in forestry) are featured with their children in a parenting DVD called Today’s Families: The Wonder of Toddlers. Bright’s wife, Kimberly (‘98 B.S.), and Alan Wright’s wife, Rachel (‘94 B.S.), both studied agriculture and applied economics at Virginia Tech. The four partners have seven young children among them, whom they hope will become the next generation of Hokies.

Bright currently serves as president of the College of Natural Resources and Environment Alumni Board and has served on the board since he was named the college’s outstanding young alumnus in 2006. He is also a regular guest lecturer for the Introduction to Forest Products Marketing course. “Vance, Gary, and I are extremely grateful for the education and career guidance we’ve received from the college,” said Bright. “It has been critical in our professional success. not only did we make lifelong friends at Virginia Tech, but we have now cultivated a strong business partnership.”