Event Snapshot: Framing the Moment

June 5, 2024
by NHLA
Hardwood Industry Needs WorkshopHardwood MarketsHardwood SummitIndustry PartnershipsMarket CaptureMembership BenefitsNewsNHLAAnnouncementsSupply Chain ResilienceWorkforce Development

This past week, the U.S. Hardwood sector came together at the Hardwood Industry Needs Workshop to push the industry forward and into the future. The event was hosted at the National Hardwood Lumber Association (NHLA) Headquarters in Memphis, Tennessee (May 8-10, 2024).

The last industry-wide event of this nature occurred over a decade ago. Back in 2010, the Hardwood Leaders Forum consisted of two forums held in Charlotte, NC, each with its own goals and objectives for strengthening the U.S. hardwood industry and setting Vision 2020. The Needs Workshop aimed to revisit and build on that vision.

All the latest and greatest in hardwood utilization and market share capture opportunities were covered in hopes of reinvigorating the Industry members to see that there is more we can do with wood.
While innovation is never boring, a bright future starts with solving the problems of today. That was the purpose of the Needs Workshop, facilitating conversation on what challenges exist, and brainstorming solutions to address those in the near and long term. The event split time between stimulating presentations with large group discussions to break out interactive smaller-group Socratic dialogue.

While in one of the breakout rooms, a poignant story was shared by one of the wood product producers–a story of success, where government, industry, and state and academic research supported a business opportunity and growth for a local sawmill. After years of trying to reach out to academics through gridlock phone systems, and unanswered emails – there was a change in the form of government. Shortly after the governor of Tennessee was elected, with strong ideals in supporting rural community health, Thompson Appalachian Hardwoods was paid a visit. The governor and his team asked how they could serve the business and showed appreciation for the business’s accomplishments for the two decades before his seat in office. What transpired was a beautiful demonstration of collaboration, where data and market research provided to the mill, tooled them with new thinking and a new approach to adapt and pivot in the marketplace. During a time of turmoil when hundreds of mills are shutting down–they’re opening a second sawmill.

Group photo of many participants from the 2024 Hardwood Summit in Memphis, Tennessee


Many left the workshop invigorated, inspired, and enthusiastic. Other seasoned professionals left curious, wondering how their colleagues would implement the collaborative ideas.

If you were not able to attend the event, be assured your voice was missed. This event snapshot frames five key takeaways from the Workshop-a more thorough analysis and report on key themes, action items, and recommendations in the coming weeks.

Participants from the 2024 Hardwood Summit in Memphis, Tennessee partaking in a group activity to determine the key challenges and opportunities facing the hardwood industry


Five Key Takeaways
1. Market Capture Opportunity Exists. There are existing American hardwood lumber needs that are getting fulfilled by foreign timber species, i.e., Military applications. Whether it’s in America or abroad, Hardwood’s market share is being left on the table.
2. Workforce and Adaptability. Labor shortages and mills’ ability to adapt to market fluctuations are key challenges producers face. Career advocates and community-to-education-to-career pipelines are needed, while in some cases equipment-based technical assistance is a need. Others need market research to facilitate a shift.
3. Collaboration for Supply Chain Resiliency. The hardwood industry has a network of supply chains that are made up of essential and non-essential wood products–all with varying value and importance to resiliency. The networks require collaboration to foster supply chain resiliency, ranging from wood pellets to wood energy, sawlogs to biochar, and pulp to stairs to floors. Collaboration is needed across sectors, the electrical industry, and especially with the architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) sector.
4. Communication and Competition. The environmental messaging and communication of the industry still have room to improve in consolidating its voice; especially in key promotional marketing that separates wood from competition substitute products. But also, through better synergies across associations and between government agencies.
5. Information sharing must continue. There are needs and frustrations on each side of any partnership in the Hardwood Industry. Information sharing both through associations or directly from industry to academia and environmental organizations is paramount to support the foundation of the Industry-loggers to the mills to the end users. And rinse and repeat. Let’s do this again.

by NHLA

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