As the current chairman of the NLBMDA, I've been on the road a lot since last October, when I assumed the post, visiting our different federated associations and their members. During the course of my travels, I have had the opportunity to meet some of the finest people in the lumber and building materials supply industry—those who have great ideas and opinions to share.

Every place that I've had the opportunity to set up a meeting—even though most were shorter than I would have liked—the dealers and Building Material Association Executives have been very hospitable. To those I've met with to date, I want to say “thank you” for the courtesy and kindness extended to this small-town country boy from rural Tennessee.

My goals this year are to visit all of the federated associations and to continue to share with each group an update about NLBMDA's national efforts and activities. In many cases, Shawn Conrad, NLBMDA president, will be traveling with me, as we have done frequently over the past six months.

I have encouraged all the dealers that I have met along the way to become more active at the national level. And I also appeal to dealers who are not yet members of a federated group to sign up now and take steps to become active at both the local and national levels. The more involvement we have from you, the stronger the NLBMDA—and the industry—will be.

You don't have to be a representative from your federated association to get involved—your company just has to be a member. At that point, you don't need a special invitation to come to any of our meetings or to join our committees. You just need to sign up and participate.

Throughout my career, I've gained a tremendous amount both personally and professionally from my involvement with the association, and I believe you will have the same experience if you are truly on board. If you are already a member of a federated group and you are interested in becoming more involved at the national level, contact Shawn Conrad (, or me ( If you have yet to join a local affiliate, check out the NLBMDA Web site ( for a contact list of our federated associations. We need people who have diverse opinions and an interest in improving the industry, and this request for involvement is extended to both dealers and manufacturers.

For example, throughout my travels the one issue that seems to be on all dealers' minds is, “How do we educate and train our employees?” The NLBMDA, working with our federated partners, is seeking an answer to this question. We'd like to know your training needs and what you'd like in an employee education program. If you have a particular interest in this area, we'd like you to participate on our national Education Committee. We need people who have been successful or who are interested in helping to develop a national training program. (For more information, contact the NLBMDA at 800.634.8645).

Finally, make sure to mark your calendars for Sept. 23–25, 2004, when more than 250 dealers are expected to attend the NLBMDA/PROSALES Industry Summit in Palm Beach, Fla., a new event resulting from the merger of the PROSALES Executive Summit and the NLBMDA Industry Summit. By attending, you'll hear and participate in discussions that directly impact your business. Plus, you'll receive the added bonus of meeting some of the sharpest minds in the industry. Remember, the more effort you put in, the more benefits you will receive.

Bill Stewart is chairman of the NLBMDA and president of Stewart Lumber Co. in Dickson, Tenn. E-mail: