Wood Flooring Industry Builds Connections at 2023 NWFA Expo

The wood flooring industry convened in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, last week for the 2023 NWFA Wood Flooring Expo. The theme was “Make it Happen,” and attendees experienced specialized education sessions, technical demonstrations, the latest products and trends, and numerous networking opportunities.

During the opening session, Michael Martin, CEO and president of NWFA, gave a wood flooring industry update. He noted that the outlook for 2023 is cautiously optimistic, citing Hardwood Floors magazine’s survey results which show 21 percent of respondents anticipate significant sales growth of eight percent or more, while 18 percent expect moderate growth of three to seven percent. While acknowledging ongoing concerns such as supply chain disruptions, labor shortages, and economic uncertainty, Martin gave an overview of how the NWFA can help members address their challenges.

“Through education, advocacy, and collaboration, the NWFA works to support our members and elevate the industry as a whole. The NWFA remains a trusted partner for all who care about the future of wood flooring,” said Martin.

Exhibitors on the trade show floor shared optimism about how the industry will fare in 2023. Chris King, senior vice president of sales and marketing for AHF Products, noted that they have seen much more energy in the hardwood space in the past 12 months.

“Commercial is a bright spot. There’s a lot of growth there, so we are putting more wood behind that sector. Remodel/replace is kind of hit or miss across the country, but we are seeing signs of improvement,” said King. “As far as new products and placement, none of the retailers are holding back. They are investing, they believe in what they see as far as technology and new trends that we are bringing to market. It may be a little soft in Q2, but I think for the second half of the year, we are very bullish on what’s going to happen.”

NWFA hosted its second annual Women’s Industry Network breakfast during Expo. About 75 attendees joined together for networking and discussed ways to stay connected throughout the year. Renee Martin, vice president of business development and corporate training for Dale Carnegie and Associates, also led a session focused on leading with assertiveness.

“The Women’s Industry Network Breakfast at NWFA Expo was a truly empowering experience. It was inspiring to be surrounded by so many accomplished women who are breaking barriers in the flooring industry and leading the way,” says Kim Milani, marketing manager for Corus Fastening. “I left feeling motivated to continue pursuing my own goals and aspirations. I will definitely attend again.”

The NWFA Emerging Leaders Council hosted a student event sponsored by Q.E.P./Harris Flooring Group, Pallmann, and Integrity Floors LLC, to reach out to the next generation of wood flooring professionals. Around 100 local students from middle school, high school, and post-secondary technical colleges were able to tour the trade show floor and attend a career panel discussion, which featured Luis Perez of Hero Flooring, Peter Connor of WD Flooring, and Kayleen McCabe, a television host, advocate for skilled trades, and licensed contractor. This year, the students also got hands-on experience as Lenny Hall of Endurance Floor Company walked students through a woodworking project.

“There were a lot of students here who were really intrigued about what our industry has to offer and how they could get involved. They wanted to hear all of the stories about what we have done in the past and how we got where we are,” says Matt Thrane with Gehl Flooring Supply Inc. in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin. “I think the Expo was a little more grandiose than what these students were expecting. This year’s show was very well attended, and there was a lot here for these kids to see and really get exposed to everything that might be available to them in our industry.”

Both the 2023 NWFA Service Award honorees and Wood Floor of the Year Award winners were announced during the Expo. A full list of those recognized is included below, and be sure to read more about these recipients in the upcoming June/July 2023 issue of Hardwood Floors magazine.

2023 NWFA Service Awards

  • Ambassador Award: Drew Kern, Infinity Claims Management Solutions
  • Emerging Leader of the Year Award: Luis Perez, Hero Flooring LLC
  • Hall of Fame Award: Don Conner
  • Hall of Fame Award: Rick Holden, Derr Flooring Company
  • Vanguard Industry Leadership Award: Jorge Perez, Epic Hardwood Floors LLC

2023 NWFA Wood Floor of the Year Awards

  • Best Circular/Curved Application: Ourada Designs, Nine Mile Falls, Washington
  • Best in Color/Finish and Textured Wood: Floor Master Company, Crystal Lake, Illinois
  • Best Historic Restoration: RippnFinish, Gladstone, Missouri
  • Best in Marquetry/Inlays: Floor Master Company, Crystal Lake, Illinois
  • Best Parquetry: Custom Floors Unlimited, Houston, Texas
  • Best Staircase: Walk On Wood Inc., Winter Park, Florida
  • Best Use of Technology: Czar Floors, Richboro, Pennsylvania
  • Manufacturer Spotlight: Peachey Hardwood Flooring, Reedsville, Pennsylvania
  • Member’s Choice: Czar Floors, Richboro, Pennsylvania

Nods to the unique charm and hospitality of Milwaukee, as well as the state of Wisconsin’s rich forest products heritage were made throughout the Expo. A highlight this year was a Road Rally Party at the Harley-Davidson Museum, where Expo attendees had the chance to not only catch up with each other but also see motorcycles and other artifacts from the legendary company.

Mark your calendar now for next year’s Expo, which will take place April 16-18, 2024, in New Orleans, Louisiana.

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