Taking Action for the Industry’s Future

The NWFA’s Emerging Leaders Network was formed in 2017 to bring young leaders from across the entire wood flooring supply chain together for networking opportunities. The group’s first event took place at the 2017 NWFA Expo in Phoenix with more than 100 attendees younger than 40 years of age (the only requirement) representing contractors, distributors, manufacturers, and retailers within the industry. To prepare for this networking event, a council of nine members was assembled to lead planning efforts.

At the 2018 NWFA Expo in Tampa, another successful networking event was held with more than 140 attendees. And, the Emerging Leaders Council had the opportunity to participate in the Hardwood Federation’s Fly-In later that year. Members of the council joined forces with the NWFA Board of Directors, the Hardwood Federation, and the Hardwood Manufacturers Association’s NextGen Leaders Council to help persuade members of Congress to pass the 2018 Farm Bill that was up for a vote. The 2019 NWFA Expo in Fort Worth brought the third and largest networking meeting to date with more than 150 members attending. We look forward to the 2020 NWFA Expo in Milwaukee and and growing this network of future industry leaders.

The Emerging Leaders Network ’s objectives have broadened past hosting an annual networking event at the NWFA Expo. The council now consists of 12 members that have the task of identifying threats to the industry, market changes, and expanding the hardwood industry as a whole. These objectives will be completed through community outreach programs, continued networking events, and special projects assigned to the council by the NWFA Board of Directors.

One of the Council’s main objectives is to reach out to high school and college students to raise awareness about career paths within the trade. Efforts are underway through NWFA sponsored career days, webinar interviews with students, and apprenticeship programs throughout the industry. At the 2020 NWFA Expo in Milwaukee, the Emerging Leaders Council will host local students to give them a firsthand look at the wood flooring industry and the wide spectrum of career opportunities that are possible.

The Emerging Leaders Council and Network is also forming a direct link with the NWFA Board of Directors. Each Emerging Leaders Council member has been partnered with a member of the Board in a mentorship program. This allows Council members to gain valuable insight into the workings of the Board and provides a path for emerging leaders to potentially participate on the board in the future.

“Over the next several years there is going to be a generational shift in the wood flooring industry,” said Michael Martin, NWFA President & CEO. “As the current work force begins to retire, we will see gaps both in human resources and knowledge. By identifying our emerging leaders and connecting them to seasoned members of our industry now, we hope the sharing of information and experiences between the generations will help minimize these gaps.”

If you are interested in learning more about the NWFA Emerging Leaders Network, please contact Stephanie Owen, NWFA Staff Liaison for the Emerging Leaders Network at stephanie.owen@nwfa.org.

Josh Neuberger is Chair of the Emerging Leaders Council and Marketing Manager for Pallmann. He can be reached at josh.neuberger@uzin-utz.com.

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