Washington DC Convention - A global gathering of the hardwood industry

Washington DC was an appropriate venue for the 2016 NHLA Annual Convention, given all the political uncertainties for the USA and the American hardwood industry in October.

With a changed programme format, moving association management to day two and a newly appointed CEO, Ms Lorna Christie, about nine hundred delegates met for the convention which included 82 companies and organisations exhibiting at the Exhibit Showcase.  As always there were keynote sessions, specialist seminars and presentations, social events, a golf tournament and receptions by other hardwood associations. Two seminar panels of note were the NHLA General Session Keynote Panel and an international ‘Markets & Promotion of American Hardwoods’ Panel by all the directors from the American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC). The China delegation was the largest at the event. 

On Friday morning opening the keynote session, Mark Barford was awarded (in his absence due to Hurricane Matthew) Honorary Life Membership of NHLA by unanimous vote of the Board for his 10 years dedicated service.  This is the first time a CEO of NHLA has been so awarded.  Then a panel of four experts each addressed the delegates, followed by a Q&A session.  Norm Murray described the work of the Forest Foundation with its educational ‘Truth about Trees’ initiative. Dr Chad Oliver discussed the underutilization of forests and John ‘Buddy’ Showalter of the American Wood Council talked about wood in construction.  Moderating the panel Dana Cole, Executive Director of the Hardwood Federation, first outlined its activities in Washington DC alerting politicians to issues relating to the industry. She encouraged members of NHLA to join the regular ‘fly-ins’ to meet members of Congress personally to discuss industry issues.

A well-attended session was presented by forest inventory analyst William ‘Bill’ Luppold, USDA Forest Service. He examined changes in hardwood consumption and prices over the last decade and discussed the current market and regional shifts in domestic consumption. 

At a packed ‘International Markets Panel’ session, Mike Snow, AHEC Executive Director, first reviewed the development of export markets with emphasis on the increasing importance of China and Vietnam, now number one and two outside North America. He explained AHEC’s strategy, with the three objectives of developing new markets and new applications for grade lumber and promoting the environmental credentials of American hardwoods.  He stressed that domestic market sectors, all in long-term decline, are no longer driving prices. He went on to demonstrate some of the recent projects that are part of the push and pull strategy, with the latest ‘SMILE’ project in London having created extraordinary publicity for Tulipwood CLT in the world’s media. Another project in Mexico had achieved promotion to 40 million people on 20 TV channels.  Mr Snow introduced all of AHEC’s overseas regional directors, who each addressed the audience.  Finally he paid tribute to all the world class AHEC staff for creating ideas and implementing programmes and he concluded with the hope that AHEC can “replace the negative messages (about wood) with our positive messages”.  During a Q&A session Mike Snow described exactly how U.S. exporters can now provide America Hardwood Environmental Profiles (AHEPs) with detailed impact data for any container of any species for any destination, to their individual customers. Consultant to AHEC, Rupert Oliver, said that the new interactive maps of U.S. Hardwood forest resources are second to none and show that in all U.S. States with hardwood forests growth exceeds removals.  John Chan announced the next (2017) Annual Convention in China in the 2nd tier port city of Qingdao – a centre of logistics and design in eastern Shandong Province on the east coast of China.

The next NHLA convention is scheduled for 25-27th October 2017 in Nashville, TN.