Don’t let an economic uptick leave you behind

todmug_newEach spring, the movers and shakers of the woodworking industry gather at a resort to be briefed on the economy and to network and enjoy some fun in the sun. This year’s Woodworking Industry Conference, held May 2-4 in Delray Beach, Fla., had a very positive feel as the industry appears to be finally on the road to recovery after a deep recession. In between golf and fishing outings, cocktail parties and association board meetings, some significant news was made.

There was particularly good news on the economy, delivered by Alan Beaulieu, president of ITR Economics. “Everything we look at says the economy is going to get better,” he said. “There will be a little bump in the road in 2014, but life will be good again in 2015, 2016 and 2017.

“2017 will be a good time to retire or sell your business.”

Beaulieu’s main message was that now is the time to grow a woodworking business. “Banks are lending to people who don’t really need the cash, so you should borrow money now and plan to pay to pay it back in five years,” he said. “It’s time to invest in yourself.”

Somewhat surprising news came from the three associations that have jointly operated the biennial International Woodworking Fair in Atlanta for the last 30 years. The Woodworking Machinery Industry Association and Wood Machinery Manufacturers of America purchased the American Home Furnishings Alliance’s ownership interest in the IWF, with the transaction expected to close late this year following IWF 2012. The WMIA and WMMA also announced that they entered into a new partnership agreement for the management and ownership of IWF.

“We believe that IWF is an important part of the continued success of the woodworking industry,” WMIA president John Henderson said in a statement. “Our decision is not only good for the thousands of woodworkers in North America and abroad who attend IWF, but also for the numerous companies that provide machinery, cutting tools and various supplies and exhibit at IWF.”

“AHFA has enjoyed a long and productive partnership with the WMMA and WMIA. We know IWF will continue to be a vibrant and relevant event under their joint ownership,” added AHFA vice chairman and IWF board member Wyatt Bassett.

Several companies were honored for their achievements. Tom Onsrud, president of CNC manufacturer C.R. Onsrud in Troutman, N.C., won the prestigious WMMA Baldwin Award of Excellence for outstanding contributions to the industry. Company founder Charles Onsrud won the award in 1998.

The WMIA presented Greg Larson of Timesavers Inc. with its Partner of the Year award.

Wooden Globe winners, also from the WMIA, went to Blum Inc. of Stanley, N.C. (Educator Award); Premier Hardwood Products of Syracuse, N.Y. (Commitment to Excellence through Technology Award), and Northland Forest Products of Shakopee, Minn. (Innovator Award).

Finally, the AWFS announced a major floor plan change for its 2013 fair in Las Vegas. Instead of two halls, one large hall will be used primarily. “We think it’s going to be great for traffic and bring more energy to the show,” says show director Angelo Gangone.

This article originally appeared in the June 2012 issue.