As the new chair of the National Lumber and Building Material Dealers Association, I am excited to have another opportunity to serve the associations that put me where I am today. I believe in LBM associations because I remember how valuable they were to my industry education. When I took over a one-acre, $300,000-a-year lumberyard in 1976, I didn't have the luxury of a lifetime's worth of family knowledge of the industry. But through my involvement in Mid-America Lumbermens Association and NLBMDA, I formed essential professional relationships and friendships with dealers and suppliers nationwide who gave me business insight into industry affairs. Thirty years later, that one-acre lumberyard has expanded to 10 acres over two locations, and $300,000 in annual revenue has increased approximately 100-fold. I owe a large part of that success to my involvement in MLA and NLBMDA.
I especially want to thank last year's chair Steve Kelly for his leadership and courage. I know how much time and toil he dedicated to our efforts and the tough decisions he had to make.
As NLBMDA chair, I am committed to strengthening our legislative presence on Capitol Hill by continuing to build on the success of LuDPAC's government affairs work, including pushing to increase support for H.R. 989, the Innocent Sellers Fairness Act. I will ensure as much as possible that the LBM Institute continues to keep dealers up to date on all industry issues, from safety standards to green-building regulations, so they can maximize the efficiency and quality of their operations. As a longtime supporter of MLA, I also will continue to work with lumber associations across the country so that our organization grows bigger and better–and together. That includes seeking and demanding the best association leadership we can find to help us do what's best for our organization and, by extension, what's best for NLBMDA dealers.
Undoubtedly, we will have difficult challenges ahead as our industry continues to reshape itself. In the past 30 years, we've witnessed massive operational expansion: one-acre yards have grown to meet consumer needs, only to be threatened by big boxes, which were countered by pro-oriented dealers and specialized distributors. There has been tremendous consolidation among industry suppliers. I expect these changes to continue as we see huge contractor yards develop and publicly traded home builders emerge, dominating the largest housing markets in the United States. As these giants seize larger market shares, dealers must adjust to serve both the Davids and Goliaths of the building industry.
Additionally, the subprime mortgage debacle and resulting foreclosures and overbuilt markets will take some of the bloom off our industry during the next year or two. But we will survive, and we will flourish using lessons learned to enhance our ability to provide building materials to our customers.
Just as the LBM industry has undergone tremendous change, NLBMDA must be prepared to adapt itself to maximize its position in the ever-evolving environment. I am prepared to make whatever changes necessary to keep NLBMDA at the influential forefront of the industry. As the market changes and dealers demand more from us, NLBMDA must restructure its organization to be able to meet those demands. I am excited to take on these tasks and do whatever I can to ensure NLBMDA continues to build and expand the best possible foundation to help its dealers.
I feel privileged to be a part of the industry–and to be able to influence it–at such a crucial time, and I look forward to working with everyone who continues to make the LBM industry such a personally and professionally rewarding part of our nation's economy.
–Harold Baalmann is NLBMDA chair and president of B&B Lumber in Wichita, Kan.