In this period of rapid industry change, lumber dealers face many of the same challenges and opportunities whether they are small independents, regional chains, or national in scope. We, as manufacturer and service providers, can better understand dealers'issues, concerns, and needs through closer contact with them, and we need to recognize that we have much to offer and much to gain through active support of customer trade organizations outside of our yearly dues.

In the case of the National Lumber and Building Material Dealers Association (NLBMDA), the advantages of involvement and active participation by manufacturers are both obvious and numerous. For my company, Simpson Strong-Tie, and perhaps many of yours, lumber dealers represent the largest segment of our business, much of which is served by wholesale building material distributors. In most cases, distributors do an excellent job of providing necessary services to dealers at a lower cost than our company could manage on a direct basis, but by using distributors there is a level of insulation that naturally occurs. The good news is that we can get the pulse of the industry and interact directly with the dealers we serve by actively participating in NLBMDA.

NLBMDA offers manufacturers and service providers terrific opportunities for exposure and access to dealers across the United States through its Manufacturers and Services Council (MSC). The MSC not only provides members with the usual discounts for attending and exhibiting at annual meetings, but it also gives vendors the type of unique access to chief executives and other key decision makers who are usually difficult to reach in this industry. NLBMDA allows MSC members to purchase its wide range of products and services that assist all industry-related businesses in their market research, safety programs, and educational activities. Perhaps best of all, the MSC gives vendors a voice in the industry through its representation on NLBMDA's Board of Directors, making it possible for vendors to be involved in solving the major issues impacting dealers.

As the chairman of the Manufacturers and Services Council, it is my privilege to work with other MSC members to find new ways to help dealers succeed in their businesses. Since, as we all know, when dealers succeed so do their vendors. NLBMDA is constantly creating additional opportunities for the MSC members to gain additional visibility in the dealer industry. In 2005, MSC members will have several chances to sponsor and provide expertise for new programs that will help dealers improve safety, increase product knowledge, and grow their businesses. The policy of Simpson Strong-Tie is to actively participate and add value in any organization we choose to join. To that end, we are expanding the opportunity for MSC members to get involved in a meaningful way. Member companies now represent the council on key NLBMDA committees. Participation by MSC members is greatly appreciated by dealers because it adds valuable expertise in many areas, thereby enhancing both committee effectiveness and member involvement.

As NLBMDA grows, so will opportunities for exposure and access for MSC members. I have personally seen the many advantages it has brought our company and the customers we serve. Don't miss this opportunity: If your company is looking for the most cost-effective way to build new relationships and solidify old ones within the dealer community, call NLBMDA at 800.634.8645. It may be the best business decision you make all year!

Mike Bugbee is vice president of sales for Simpson Strong-Tie Co. and chairman of the NLBMDA Manufacturers and Services Council