The National Lumber and Building Material Dealers Association convention was held in Washington DC on March 31 thru April 2. I was in attendance with my fun and beautiful wife Melinda Ganahl. After I took the role of the WCLBMA President in late 2013, [WCLBMA Executive Director] Ken Dunham and I discussed the various duties I needed to perform. On that list was attending the National Legislative Conference in DC. The purpose of my being there was to represent our West Coast interests.
I had not been to DC in 31 years and was delighted. I shared my travel plans with Melinda informing her I’d be away from the family for a few days. She looked at the dates and said “Um, honey, that’s my birthday.” My response was “Cool, that means you are travelling with me!” My trip to DC was looking better and better. I have the honor of representing our association, visiting one of the most iconic cities on planet earth, and I get to do all of this with Melinda.
What is the NLMBDA?
The National Lumber and Building Materials Association represent its members in the national public policy arena with emphasis on efforts to 1) promote our industry and educate legislators and 2) assist legislative, regulatory, and other bodies in the development of laws that affect our business.
The previous points are part of the answer. We need to support our industry and educate legislators. I would add that educating legislators is no easy task, but more on that later in the column. The WCLBMA is one of the largest regional associations in the United States. We need to attend. In total, the US has 16 regional LBM groups. It’s the only event of the year where all associations gather at once. Back in October at the WCLBMA convention I stated I wanted to find the good things happening in all our businesses. My visit to DC allowed me to make new friends from Oklahoma, New Jersey, Minnesota and others. The convention provides an excellent opportunity for networking across all states. All regions reported a significant improvement in their business. Although they also added that the winter of 2014 was particularly brutal. I could not help but to share that the average temperature in Southern California for December and January was probably 72 degrees! Most of the associations across the U.S. are tired of the severe winter and look forward to spring conditions.
The U.S. has 16 regional associations. Nearly all of the associations made the conference. In total there were approximately 130 dealer and associate members in attendance. In attendance from the WCLBMA were Ken Dunham, Mark Ganahl, JD Saunders, and Matt Petersen. I am pleased to report that JD Saunders and Matt Petersen have active leadership roles on the National Board of Directors. In fact JD is moving into the Chair of the National Board in 2015. This assures excellent representation of the West Coast on the national stage. A special thanks to JD and Matt for their service.
What happens at the convention?
I will not bore my reader with the full schedule of events. Rather I’ll try to recap the high points. In addition to a number of various committee meetings taking place, the board of directors scheduled a media personality, a Senator from Wisconsin, and the CEO of the National Association of Homebuilders as speakers. Tucker Carlson from Fox News, Senator Ron Johnson from Wisconsin, and Jerry Howard the CEO of the NAHB were all guest speakers. Each speaker was on point, entertaining, empathetic to business interests and spent time after their speech to engage us in a question and answer session. It was very entertaining.
Day two of the conference is dedicated largely to congressional office visits. We had 15 scheduled appointments with various members of Congress from across the State of California. We divided up the visits among our West Coast group and hit the halls of congress. The purpose of these visits was to 1) convey who we were as an industry and 2) speak very specifically and advocate on behalf of a few bills.
We had four pieces of legislation emanating from the House of Representatives that we were well prepared to speak on. I had visits with the following Congressional offices: Tony Cardenas, Henry Waxman, Gary Miller, Ed Royce, and George Miller. Let me clarify, I did not meet with any of the actual Congressman. I met with a legislative assistant that worked for the Congressman. Each was very polite, very young (under 25) and each did their very best at acting interested in what I had to say. Suffice to say I am a little skeptical of the effectiveness of our visits. I’m not sure my compelling arguments and colorful handouts were not forgotten and discarded after I walked out of the office. Maybe not, perhaps they did as I requested and briefed their boss on the visit from the NLBMDA people.
It was an interesting trip and one I am grateful to have made. Thanks to our association for allowing me to represent our interests. Thanks to both sets of Grandparents for taking the kids for a few nights. It looks like they were fed, clothed, and even made it to school while we were gone. And thanks to Melinda for travelling with me on her birthday. Who knows, it may not be my last trip to the NLBMDA Legislative Conference.
[Mark Ganahl is president of Ganahl Lumber. The above article first appeared in "The Lumber Log," the publication of the WCLBMA.]