As part of the many initiatives developed by the National Lumber and Building Material Dealers Association (NLBMDA) this year, one of the most significant is the creation of the Lumber and Building Materials Institute (LBMI).

NLBMDA represents 8,000 of America's building material dealers and the largest regional chains across the United States. Collectively, these dealers employ more than 400,000 professionals. Our members sell the majority of building products used in the nearly 2 million housing starts annually. Dealers' primary customers are professional contractors, home builders, and remodelers across the United States.

Lumber and building material dealers are at the center of the building products supply chain. Therefore, NLBMDA strives to be at the center of issues impacting the supply chain by uniting each segment of the channel under our organization's umbrella.

As the industry evolves, the needs of our members change. Recent surveys and input from the industry indicate a significant need for the organization to create a non-profit institute for industry research, education outreach, and employee safety and health training. The Lumber and Building Materials Institute was created to fill that need by uniting the supply chain to develop the research data and training to ensure the continued growth and success of the North American lumber and building materials supply chain.

The following are the building blocks for the Institute:

Research. To engage in, conduct, promote, and support the study, research, and analysis of lumber and building material distribution channels and environmental impact and provide specific data on industry issues, trends, and business practices. Data generated by the Institute will be shared with all stakeholders.

Safety. Safety is an important part of any successful business plan. A company that invests time, money, and resources into improving safety in the workplace will see a large return on investment in terms of morale, productivity, and efficiency. Businesses without safe and healthy employees are jeopardizing one of their biggest assets. The lumber and building material industry needs to focus even more on safety due to the inherent risks that are involved in many daily business activities.

Recognizing the importance of safety, the Institute will focus on providing training and information designed to enhance safety and assist the LBM industry in regulatory compliance. These new resources will help create a safety culture for the entire industry and within each company by reiterating basic safety principles. The goal of the programs will be to reduce injuries, illnesses, and deaths and as a result reduce medical, insurance, and compliance costs. At the same time, employees will benefit from reduced medical costs, reduction in lost workdays, and the peace of mind that they work for a company that cares about them. A focus on safety will benefit the entire LBM industry.

Training. The Institute will coordinate with all industry segments on educational programs that provide companies and their employees with affordable, timely, and industry-specific training. Our educational goals are to ensure that outstanding people will seek careers in our industry because of the training they receive.

Shawn Conrad is president of NLBMDA. 800.634.8645 E-mail:

The Institute will provide education outreach to internal and external industry audiences on sustainable forestry practices and long-term forest productivity and conservation.

Governance. The Institute will be governed by a board of trustees, representing all segments of the supply chain. The trustees' role will be to govern and manage the non-profit Institute and administer its initiatives.

The size and scope of this industry provides us with an opportunity to tap into the expertise and interests of many individuals. The Institute will have a welcome mat out for those who would like to help us build the organization's projects and programs. If you would like to be involved in one of the Institute's initiatives, please contact me at 800.634.8645 or