Slot machines and poolside receptions with DJs and tropical drinks might not sound like your typical lumber dealers conference, but keeping the pace fast and the energy high for more than 100 Nevada- and California-based lumbermen under 40 years old is a tall order. For 30 years, the Lumber Association of California and Nevada (LACN) has successfully paired professionalism and a party atmosphere at the group's Second Growth summer conference, held this year Sept. 22–23 at the Harrah's Rincon Casino & Resort in Valley Center, Calif.
Second Growth, similar to the Western Building Material Association's Young Westerners and the Northeastern Retail Lumber Association's Northeastern Young Lumber Executives, is an outreach organization promoting the recruitment, education, and advancement of young people within the lumber industry. Originally designed for those under 30, the Second Growth “maximum” age was increased in the '90s to 40, but in reality pro dealers of all ages are welcome to join. Still, attendance is dominated by industry greenhorns and sophomores looking to get a competitive edge for company and career.
Twenty-something Chris Petter, for example, hit this year's conference to increase his industry knowledge and enlarge his peer group after recently joining up with Hermosa Beach, Calif.–based Learned Lumber. “My father was in the lumber business, so I'm second generation, but I just became a salesman in January,” Petter said. “So I'm here to meet as many people and learn as much as I can.”
To assist Petter and the other 108 attendees in that undertaking, the conference provided networking opportunities with both fellow pro dealers and manufacturer sponsors that included All Coast Forest Products, Boise, Krauter Storage, Hiab, Huttig, Trex, Weyerhaeuser, and Windsor One. All of them manned product booths to answer questions on installation, application, and product values in serving the contractor customer.
Educational sessions included keynote presentations by environmentalist Patrick Moore, who holds doctorates in ecology and science, and economist Don Haid, who holds a doctorate in forest economics and is a manager of raw materials and industry analysis for Weyerhaeuser.
“We're all competitors. We'll go out and beat each other with a stick after this, but at the end of the day we all face similar challenges,” said San Bernardino, Calif.–based Barr Lumber salesman William Worra, a Second Growth member for four years who was attending his first conference. “We need to band together and support our industry and our common goals, and this is a great group [to achieve that].”
Collectively facing industry challenges, particularly those raised by anti-logging activists, also was a message hammered home during the keynote presentation by Moore, a co-founder of Greenpeace and a self-described radical environmentalist who once protested hydrogen bomb testing, whaling, and harp seal hunts before growing disillusioned with what he deemed “extremist environmentalism,” particularly within the forest products sector.
As the current chair and chief scientist of Vancouver, British Columbia–based environmental consultancy Greenspirit Strategies, Moore has instead embraced timber harvesters as key stakeholders in the success of sustainable forestry. “It is because we use so much wood that our forests are abundant and growing,” Moore told the attendees. “Buying wood sends a market signal to plant more trees. Using less wood, then, is actually an anti-environmental policy.”
Following the keynote presentations, members paid tribute to past Second Growth presidents at a gala dinner that included a performance from comedian and “motivational” speaker Frank King. He encouraged young lumbermen in jest to “make a living, not a difference,” a message clearly taken in stride by the group.
“On the contrary, this is one of a few groups that is truly forward-looking in a business often based on tradition and history and the past,” summed up Randy Fleck, an area manager of Second Growth sponsor Hiab. “Our company has been around for 30 years as well, and we want to be around for 30 more, and participating in Second Growth is the best way to get in front of the future of the industry now.”