I am the president of Hull Forest Products, a hardwood lumber producer in Pomfret Center, CT, producing 10 million board feet per year. I have been fortunate to be able to participate in several trade organizations as well as the initial meeting of the Hardwood Leaders Forum initiative, which was a diverse cross-section of the entire hardwood industry...from the forestry sector to finished furniture and flooring, to bioenergy.
The universal need I hear from various groups is a meaningful, consistent, well-funded promotional effort to get the word out to all sectors of the general public about the many benefits of hardwoods in our daily lives. That self-promotion may be in the form of R&D projects to examine wood components vs various substitutes; a marketing program to educate the public about the fact that bamboo isn't a hardwood, and in fact has a much larger carbon footprint than our North American hardwoods (in spite of how green we've been lead to believe bamboo is); or perhaps an advertising campaign that challenges some of the forest management policies on our National Forests.
In my mind, the proposed Check-Off program is not about our respective businesses today. It is about the long-term collective future of the hardwood industry; our businesses, our employees and their families, and a way of life. It is about an entire industry seeing a need, believing in itself, land being willing to invest over the long haul for the good of the whole.
I have read many comments where the chief complaint is about small facilities receiving the benefits of the Check-Off program without paying in. I agree that can be frustrating. Just as all the companies who use the NHLA grade rules as the foundation of their business without being a member of NHLA is to me. Loopholes, if you want to call them that, exist in virtually every program, particularly at inception. I trust the Industry appointed Board that would be responsible for administering the Check-Off program will work to improve the program as needed over time. It is important to note that Check-Off program members can vote to disband a Check-Off program, though my understanding is that it has never happened.
Check-Off programs have a long history of success, and have proven themselves to powerfully move industry segments forward. The time has come for the hardwood industry to allow itself the opportunity to move forward too.
Hull Forest Products supports the formation of the Check-Off program for the hardwood industry, and encourages all those in the industry to support it as well. It is a program about proactively developing our own destiny.