BLACKSBURG, VA. -- Some well-known companies have joined with a Virginia Tech business research center to work on improving productivity.

"This represents a new relationship between industry and the university," said K. Dow Scott, director of the Barringer Center for Human Resources and Management Relations of Tech's R.B. Pamplin College of Business.

The companies -- Bell Atlantic, Philip Morris and nine East Coast firms, as well as the U.S. Postal Service -- are members of the Affiliates Program of the Barringer Center. Under the program, representatives of the companies work with Tech faculty members on research that will lead to business methods designed to improve organizational productivity.

A modest annual fee paid by each company is combined with funding from other industry, government and university sources to support the research program.

But more than money is involved, Scott said. "Industry is providing more than financial support," he said. "It is becoming an active participant in the research process."

Participating companies suggest research topics, provide locations for field research projects, and use the Barringer Center's faculty, staff and library in their efforts to improve their human resource management, Scott said.

In addition, the companies create a network of executives and faculty members with an interest in exploring new ways of using human resources. "We saw a need, on behalf of both industry and the college, to develop continuing relationships with a group of companies," Scott said.