NHLA rolls out new branding initiative

The National Hardwood Lumber Association unveiled its “new brand and refocused message” at IWF 2008, but the new initiative is a work in progress, with NHLA officers speaking more in generalities than specifics.

The NHLA was founded in 1898 to establish a uniform system of grading rules for the measurement and inspection of hardwood lumber, and is the oldest and largest hardwood association, with more than 1,600 members representing all sectors of the hardwood industry.

But with a growing international market, and more attention being paid to environmental issues, NHLA formed a task force with the goal of forming a strategy to meet the new challenges facing its members and the hardwood industry. One of the largest challenges facing the U.S. hardwood industry is that there are several dozen industry organizations, with most acting independently.

“We realized that there was no one, single voice for the hardwood industry, and the hardwood industry was kind of spread out in different areas and different associations, and we said we need to pull together those voices; we need to pull together the issues that are going on,” says Mark Barford, NHLA executive director. “So when we have an issue on certification, an issue on imports, an issue on logs, whatever issue comes up, we can be the eyes and the ears and the voice for the industry to pull together as a group, and that is our unique promise as a group.”

Although rich in history and tradition, NHLA members are encountering global competition, and the organization feels it is time to provide a means to assist its members in dealing with new issues. NHLA lists its five main roles as education, promotion and communication, advocacy, networking, and industry services.

“The hardwood industry today is approximately two-thirds the size it was just six or seven years ago,” Barford says. “So we better get out in front, we better start helping this industry to make sure that we’re still strong and still moving.”

When asked about NHLA and certification, NHLA continues to have conversations with certification organizations, but it doesn’t appear there will be any NHLA involvement with certification in the near future.

“NHLA is officially neutral on certification because we have people that are on both sides of the discussion on this,” Barford says. “We have people that are in favor of one program over another, we have some members who think it is silly for us to be involved at all, and some members who think that it is something that will go away. We have some members who say, ‘Why do we need to certify a resource that we know is growing at close to twice as much as we are cutting?’ ... So there’s all these different voices that we’ve got to pull together to come up with one voice of the hardwood industry and  for how we’re going to move forward.”

The NHLA annual convention and exhibit showcase was scheduled for Oct 9-11 in San Francisco, featuring speakers and education seminars by industry experts.