The National Lumber and Building Material Dealers Association (NLBMDA) is more than halfway through our 90th year. It's a long time for any organization, but the milestone pales in comparison to a few of our state associations. Organizations like the Western Building Materials Association, the Kentucky Building Materials Association, the Eastern Building Material Dealers Association, and others have already seen their 100th anniversary come and go.
A few years ago, I received a phone call from a dealer from the Northeast who called with a specific question, but like many conversations, we veered off onto other topics. This dealer recalled the history of his company's beginning and reminded me that some of this country's earliest industries were agriculture and forestry, which led to the development of lumberyards and the sale of building materials. He went on to say that in many towns the lumberyard was strategically located so that many of the town's other structures—such as the church and the general store—were built after the creation of the lumberyard. Regardless of the sequence of the development of the town's creation, his point was not lost on me: Building material dealers are pivotal players in their local communities' growth and development. This was true then and continues to be true today.
Thinking of NLBMDA's 90th anniversary it is natural to focus on themes that link past and present. Many are obvious: a commitment to a strong presence representing this industry before Congress, assistance for dealers seeking to comply with the government's regulatory environment, or capitalizing on the strength of our state associations' knowledge and dealer relationships. Others are less immediately apparent but no less significant: dealers sharing information and best practices with one another to grow their companies, meeting with like-minded industry executives outside of their market area that are experiencing similar issues, or giving back to an industry that has meant so much to their company. These tangible and intangible qualities bolster us as we continue to build a 21st-century association that is ready to meet our future challenges because of the commitment of our industry leaders, thousands of dealers, our national and state association staff members, and the active participation of manufacturers and suppliers. Stealing a phrase from the Great Seal of the United States: E pluribus unum, “out of many one.”
NLBMDA is making some significant and rapid leaps into new and challenging territories. One great example of this is the introduction of congressional bill H.R. 5500—the Innocent Sellers Fairness Act. When passed, this legislation will provide retailers with legal protection from liability lawsuits that punish a company selling a legal product. This NLBMDA-initiated bill tapped into the passion of many industry executives working to see it introduced in the House of Representatives. Another achievement is the development of the Lumber and Building Materials Institute, whose mission is to develop and disseminate industry-specific research, safety programs, and employee educational training. The information generated by the Institute will help ensure that outstanding people will seek and retain careers in the building material supply industry.
There are many other examples I could cite, as well, but the real focus is that NLBMDA is demonstrating with special clarity that the association is a dynamic organization of individuals contributing to their industry and to each other. The past is, as they say, in the past. Our attitude for the future is to continue to set high aspirations and take occasional risks to fulfill them. I invite you to join our effort! —Shawn Conrad is president of NLBMDA.