The WMMA Celebrates the History of IWF

There is a lot of celebrating going on at the Wood Machinery Manufacturers of America these days. The Association is celebrating 100 years of leadership in the woodworking industry in 1999 and is simultaneously celebrating 50 years of sponsoring woodworking machinery trade shows including the International Woodworking Machinery and Furniture Supply Fair. In the following article, the WMMA reminisces about its involvement in IWF and takes a look at how it continues to serve American woodworking machinery manufacturers today.


More than 180 members of the Wood Machinery Manufacturers of America (WMMA) who manufacture woodworking machinery, cutting tools and other supplies are celebrating 100 years of the Association's presence and leadership in the woodworking industry since 1899. Simultaneously, the WMMA also celebrates 50 years of the IWF shows, which first appeared back in 1948.

As the original founder of what is today called the International Woodworking Machinery & Furniture Supply Fair (IWF) and still proud owner and sponsor, the WMMA congratulates its members who celebrate the last 100 years of American technology, productivity and service at the upcoming IWF '98 show and throughout 1999.

Many events will be taking place over the next 20 months to celebrate WMMA's centennial. Since IWF '98 is sure to be the largest woodworking show to date presented in the United States, the WMMA members will be exhibiting the latest advancements in woodworking technology focused on increased productivity and profits.


A WMMA/IWF History Lesson

So, what happened over the last 50 years to make the IWF what it is today? Here's a brief look into history:

1948 -- The first WMMA machinery show was held in the basement of the Grand Rapids (Michigan) Civic Auditorium.

1953 -- Another WMMA machinery show is held in Grand Rapids. This set a pattern of holding machinery shows once every five years.

1955 -- NAFM (National Association of Furniture Manufacturers) holds first "furniture supply fair" in a Chicago hotel basement.

1958 -- WMMA machinery show moves to High Point, North Carolina.

1963 -- WMMA machinery show is held in Winston Salem, North Carolina.

1966 -- NAFM holds its first show in Louisville. It had previously held "supplier" shows without machinery in Chicago.

1968 -- WMMA holds show in Greenville, South Carolina; NAFM in Louisville. As many WMMA members exhibited at NAFM as did at WMMA. Some exhibited at both shows, some at one or the other show. Ralph Baldwin (Oliver Machinery), John Gillespie (Newman Whitney) and Karl Heinzelman (Union Tool) negotiated a merger with NAFM at this time.

1970 -- First Joint Venture IWF is held in Louisville between WMMA and NAFM. Shows will be held every two years.

1983 -- NAFM and SFMA (Southern Furniture Manufacturers Association) were consolidated on January 1, 1984, and formed AFMA, the American Furniture Manufacturers Association.

1984 -- The new IWF is held in Atlanta, which is now large enough to meet the show's needs. Louisville is too small.

1986 -- The main floor of Georgia World Congress Center (GWCC) is sold out, with overflow at Atlantic Civic Center.

1990 -- IWF continues to grow, as a result of the efforts from each owning association.

1992 -- Recent expansions at GWCC meant IWF exhibitors were no longer space-limited, but once again the show was sold out and another record set.

1994 -- Record levels are hit for exhibit space and attendance. IWF is now the second-largest show for the industry in the world next to Ligna.

1996 -- IWF is the first event held in GWCC after the Atlanta Olympics, and all goes well. Exhibit space sets yet another record, and the show is managed by in-house staff for the first time.


A Look into the Future . . .

IWF '98 will mark the first utilization of the Georgia Dome for attendees and exhibitors. WMMA will chair IWF 2000. GWCC plans for an expansion by 2002 which could make 50 percent more exhibit space available.

Michael Burdis, president of James L. Taylor Manufacturing, and also president of the WMMA, recently stated that, "One hundred years of the Association's involvement in the wood industry is really quite significant. The Association and the members that make the WMMA what it is today should be proud of their history and excited about their future. The technology and productivity they have brought, and continue to bring, to woodworkers worldwide is a testimonial to American ingenuity."

The WMMA's strength is found in its membership (more than 180 manufacturing members). Each year a Buyer's Guide and Directory is published to help woodworking companies the world over locate woodworking machinery, cutting tools and supplies. This is one of the most complete and comprehensive publications of its kind. It is written in five different languages and contains information about WMMA member companies and the equipment they manufacture.

The WMMA also offers a hotline, 1-800-BUY-WMMA, and a World Wide Web site, (under Associations), for woodworking companies who are looking for machinery and supplies.

Over the years numerous programs have been created, implemented and are ongoing to answer the needs of the ever-changing woodworking industry. For example:

  • Woodworking Industry Conference is held each year to promote networking between member executives who share ideas and partner in progressive wood-related issues.
  • The World Trade Department serves to encourage and help members in their export activities through education about international markets and assists in marketing efforts outside the U.S.
  • The Industry Marketing Committee creates a strong image for its members in the woodworking industry throughout its domestic markets. Evaluating new markets, market changes and stimulating interest in WMMA among the press, customers and potential members are just a few of the Committee's goals.
  • To help members manage and control their businesses better, a Management Information Committee exists. Surveys, studies, statistical information and other activities are available to all members who are looking to continuously improve their companies' direction.
  • A Product and Engineering Standards Committee reviews new industry standards, recommends changes to existing standards, and advises members of new developments affecting the industry.

These are just a few of the many programs evolving within the Association. The WMMA promotes awareness of the innovative American woodworking machinery and cutting tool industry through extensive marketing, exporting, education and communication programs. That was true at the Association's inception back in 1899, and it still rings true today.

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