“Ted Talk” about Real American Hardwood (Editorial)

By realamericanhardwood
May 27, 2022

By Ray Moistner, Executive Director
Indiana Hardwood Lumbermen’s Association

“Every man owes a part of his time and money to the business or industry in which he is engaged. No man has the moral right to withhold his support from an organization that is striving to improve conditions within his sphere.” – Teddy Roosevelt

For the last twenty plus years, I have had the extraordinary privilege to work with the most genuine group of people on the planet. My association career began working for home builders, a collection of the confident and bold risk takers, whose personalities often mirrored the types of homes they built.

From there, I spent ten years representing building material retailers, most of them honest, but all very guarded in revealing too much about themselves (politically or socially), for fear they may alienate a subset of potential customers.

I knew right away that the hardwood people were different, for better or worse. They were open, sincere, humble, and happy to be behind the scenes in a mill or in the woods. They can man the (often unassuming) corner office, or jump on the forklift or loader when needed. Change out a sawblade or take a shift in the carriage. They run businesses that require a great deal of investment in order to ride the ups and downs of the markets, which sometimes provide great returns. And when times were good, they shared.

They shared their time, their talent, and their money, especially in the name of promoting hardwoods. They operate under constant attack from the under-informed, or the Conflict Industry, who accuse them of destroying the resource they take such great pride in sustaining.

They are, at the same time, both fiercely independent, and able to eat and drink together with competitors. They lift one another when a comrade is down, and bind together like no others when a good, charitable cause is presented to them.

But the reality of it is, they have often been less than rewarded for their collective investments in the industry. They understand the value of trade associations, and so many times 20% of the companies have invested in promotional campaigns that stalled for one of many reasons. The most common culprit is that campaigns have been too regional to gain traction with limited funds. Others have been created during down cycles, only to be shelved once markets turned hot, never to be un-shelved.

And of course, the elephant in the room has been the intra-industry civil war that has broken out twice in the last 30 years, when the notion of a check-off program has been introduced. Between the legitimate concerns of the opposition to the misinformation leaks through the grapevine, both efforts were doomed before, or just after, they started. Checkoffs raise the types of dollars needed, but they feel like a tax rather than voluntary support.

So, at long last, the roughly 30 associations, who have worked independent of one another for too long, have banded together, seeding the pot with their own resources, and working together to find a long-term method to promote hardwoods. The Real American Hardwood campaign is too far down the road to turn back now, financially, and in terms of its messaging.

It really doesn’t matter if every single member of the industry does or does not love every step that has been taken to get there. The fact remains that it is the product of a collective brainpower and unselfish cooperation by all these talented people, and there are many ways to reach the same objective, so why not get behind this one? And anyway, the method we’ve chosen is a damn good one!

But it won’t make it if you don’t do your own small part. The associations can’t afford to sustain this at the $1 million dollar per year minimum level it will take to be effective, but the industry sure can. And if I can get away with saying this without offending anyone, I believe that you owe it to the industry to which you are engaged. I don’t say this from an uninformed high horse. I know how hard it is to make a buck with rising costs, tough labor pools and shrinking margins. But if 36 years in the association world has taught me anything, it’s that the collective power of a group of like-minded people is awe-inspiring. It’s why politicians listen and how mountains (or elephants) get moved.

For most of you reading this, there are about 20% of the companies in every association who donate the time, and/or fund the projects that benefit all of you. This is not one of those programs. If left to the 20% to come up with large annual donations, it cannot succeed. But, if the 80% gave just a little, it cannot fail. All contributions are completely voluntary, and there are zero administrative costs subtracted. Please give a little today. It’s fast and easy, just click here to contribute today.