The Vermont Wood Products Industry Conference had about 65 participants including wood manufacturers, sawmill owners, landowners, foresters, state government officials, and others.
1.Improve communication and understanding between Vermont’s wood suppliers and producers.
2.Work toward conservation and enhancement of the natural resource base.
3.Identify measures that can reduce pollution.
4.Explore new methods of meeting consumer demands for wood and wood products.
5.Raise awareness of methods and processes that more efficiently use non-renewable energy sources.
6.Enhance the quality of life in rural communities.
7.Serve as a model for other states in forest industry sector collaboration.
A conference called “Wood Products Industry Conference: Marketing Beyond Traditional Boundaries” was held September 23 and 24 in Mendon, Vermont. The goals of the conference were as follows:
To present models of wood products and industry development.
To provide businesses with useful marketing workshops.
To bring members of the wood products industry together to network and share information.
A keynote speaker, Dr. Robert J. Bush, associate professor of forest products marketing with at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, talked about the top trends in marketing forest products. Dr. Bush is also the director of the Virginia Tech Center for Forest Products Marketing and Management.
Concurrent workshops were held on building and budgeting a marketing plan, using the Web as a sales tool, business orientation in forest products, successful marketing strategies, exporting, international markets, and how to value the forest in a community context.
Most attendees rated the conference from very good to excellent. Several attendees said that, as a result of their experience at the conference, they expect to create or update a Web site, modify their existing advertsing strategy, be more efficient and their business more profitable, and increase local competitiveness. Some expect to make better use of wood, use new sources of raw material, and to export to new foreign markets.
There were some unexpected results associated with the project. We had anticipated greater participation. To begin to understand why this occurred, VWMA conducted e-mail and telephone survey research among those members who did not attend. With 24 responding, we learned that the time of year was not that convenient; we also learned that many people felt the topic was too elementary or didn’t address their needs. We received feedback on topics for future conferences that included marketing, managing growth, controlling costs, education and training, action programs, benefits and compensation, CNC- and laser-operated equipment, financing, dust collection, networking and suppliers, safety and OSHA concerns, systems integration, and promary woodcutting.
The location, cost, and other factors were not concerns for participants. Several mentioned that even a one-day conference was a long time for them to be away from their work, and they thought that more frequent half-day workshops would better meet their needs. Only two or three people felt that a two-day conference was best.
Impacts of Results/Outcomes
Our next step is to continue providing education and training to the wood products industry, but to offer it in quarterly workshops that run from 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. From 9 a.m. to noon of those same days we will offer tours of manufacturing facilities, sawmills, or logging operations.
The first quarterly meeting is planned for January 28, 2000, and the speaker is a consultant on recruiting and retaining emplyees. This topic was a top priority of the survey group. All members of the forest products industry will be invited to participate, and a speaker’s fee is being nogiated with the presenter. However, it is anticipated that this arrangement would not be possible with other prospective speakers for the other quarterly meetings. Grant funding will be sought to help cover some of the expenses associated with furture workshops.
Areas needing additional study
VWMA has scheduled a meeting with UVM extension to discuss the future of some sort of industry-wide networking event. Rather than totally abandoning a one-day meeting with the limited purpose of allowing members to interact, VWMA seeks to contunue it, perhaps in partnership with UVM extension. This meeting would not have outside speakers, but would instead be strictly an opportunity for interaction among members of the community.