Architectural woodworkers gain insights at annual meeting
October 19, 2023 | 2:16 pm CDT

Representatives from more than 120 companies were in attendance at the AWI's 2023 annual convention.

Best business practices and leadership strategies were shared by more than 200 North American architectural woodworkers and industry suppliers during the Architectural Woodwork Institute’s annual convention.
What follows are highlights from the event, held Sept. 17-19, in Arizona, as well as a look at the projects earning the Standard of Excellence for 2023 (see sidebar, below). For information on AWI and its events visit

Networking & education
Networking is a critical component of association meetings, and AWI’s kickoff did not disappoint, with sketching, skits, a splash contest, rooster races, and other poolside activities among the team-building activities. The annual convention also included a product fair and educational sessions on a variety of topics, including company/employee best practices, supply chain management, and economic outlook for 2024.  

How to be an effective leader and develop a good manager/directs relationship was the topic of the opening keynote, provided by Mark Horstman, co-founder of Managers Tools, author of The Effective Manager and The Effective Hiring Manager, and co-host of the Executive Tools podcast. Performance and trust are gained by getting to “know your people,” with suggested methods including one-on-one scheduled meetings to encourage relationships.

Thomas Goldsby, Ph.D., Global Supply Chain Institute followed next, providing insight into North American and global supply chain issues. His presentation, “Turning Your Supply Chain from a Point of Pain into a Point of Pride,” examined the upstream and downstream forces and challenges facing companies today and in the future. Transparency in the supply chain is becoming essential, Goldsby added, and companies should look for opportunities to gain agility (the ability to quickly adjust tactics and operations within the supply chain) while improving digital capabilities and supplier relations. The question of the day: “Are you going to manage your supply chain, or is it going to manage you?”

In Monday afternoon’s featured presentation, “Lead from the Front,” Bhrett McCabe discussed how great programs and organizations build success. The key is to establish the standards to lead and push the psychological boundaries of contributors to combat complacency and drive results. A clinical and sports psychologist, including a consultant for the University of Alabama Athletic Department, Dr. McCabe concluded with five things that you can do every day to lead another to their greatness: 1) show up/be present every day; 2) stand up strong; 3) face the challenge, nothing will destroy you unless you make it bigger than you are; 4) make someone’s day better; and 5) leave it better than you found it, and be grateful for the opportunity.

Dustin Giffin of Giffin Interior & Fixture Inc. (right) receives a plaque in recognition of his term as AWI chair during Monday night's reception. The current vice chair, Randy Lange, Lange Bros. Woodwork Co. Inc. (left) will take over as chair of the association in January. Photo: Brett Dalton.

At Tuesday’s morning workshop, “Live Every Day Like There’s No Tomorrow,” Steve Baker, vice president of The Great Game of Business Inc., provided attendees with the tools needed to determine and develop their “Quality Time Remaining” personal blueprint. Knowing your QTR will help you align your focus, energy and resources, and prioritize your fulfillment, satisfaction and happiness, to create the highest quality of life in the time left, he said.

What will the future bring? Jeremy Bess, an economist with ITR Economics, provided the closing keynote. He noted the decelerating rate of rise and, in some cases, the onset of decline that impacted many manufacturers and industries in 2023, will continue into 2024, with market share gains key to riding out the downturn. Companies, he added, should assess their cash needs, as credit conditions are tightening. Also, they should maximize competitive advantages to protect margins.

Awards were also given during the convention for company safety achievements, Standard of Excellence recipients (see below), and volunteers.

Award-winning projects recognized
The Architectural Woodwork Institute’s Award of Excellence distinguishes exceptional custom architectural woodwork projects each quarter and features them in its quarterly Design Solutions magazine. The projects selected as the best of the Award of Excellence winners for the year receive the Standard of Excellence award, recognizing them as leaders in superior quality.

Winners in eight categories, plus one project deemed the overall winner, were recognized during AWI's annual convention. The winning projects, along with information on the woodwork manufacturers, architects, and design professionals are shown below.

Overall winner. Project: Lincoln Center, David Geffen Hall, Wu Tsai Theater. Project owner: Gural Family Properties Real Estate. Woodworker: Fetzer Architectural Woodwork. Architect: Diamond Schmitt Architects. Contractor: Turner Construction Co. Photographer: Michael Moran, Brooklyn, NY. Featured in Design Solutions, summer 2023.
Corporate Interior category. Project: Rock Ventures & Rock Family of Companies Headquarters. Project owner: Rock Ventures & Rock Family of Companies. Woodworker: MOD Interiors. Architect: Ghafari Associates and Pophouse Design. Contractor: The Whiting-Turner Contracting Co. Suppliers: Navy Island Inc. and M. Bohlke Veneer Corp. Photographer: John D’Angelo, Detroit, MI. Featured in Design Solutions, winter 2023.
Dining/Entertainment category. Project: Homestretch Club. Project owner: Churchill Downs. Woodworker: Wilke Sanderson. Architect: Populous. Contractor: Calhoun Construction. Photographer: Dwayne Abernathy, Crestwood, KY. Featured in Design Solutions, spring 2023.
Education category. Project: Rothschild College at Vanderbilt University. Project owner: Vanderbilt University. Woodworker: Remmert & Co. Architect: David M. Schwarz Architects. Contractor: Layton Construction. Photographer: Steve Hall, Chicago, IL. Featured in Design Solutions, spring 2023.
Healthcare category.  Project: Ascension St. Thomas River Park Hospital Lobby & Boardroom. Project owner: Ascension Health. Woodworker: Integrity Architectural Millwork Inc. Architect: Earl Swensson Associates Inc. Contractor: The Robins & Morton Group. Photographer: Wendy Whittemore, Nashville, TN. Featured in Design Solutions, summer 2023.
Hospitality/Lobby category. Project: Lilia Waikiki Residential Tower. Project owner: Brookfield Properties. Woodworker: Bruce Matson Co. Inc. Architect/Designer: Ben Wood Architects/Jules Wilson Design. Contractor: Nordic PCL Construction Inc. Photographer: Kenji Croman, Honolulu, HI. Featured in Design Solutions, fall 2022.
Performing Arts/Events Space category. Project: Audry Irmas Pavilion. Project owner: Wilshire Boulevard Temple. Woodworker: Millworks By Design Inc. Architect: OMA, NYC and Gruen Associates, Los Angeles, CA. Contractor: Matt Construction. Suppliers: Navy Island Inc. Photographer: Jason O’Rear, San Francisco, CA. Featured in Design Solutions, fall 2022.
Residential category. Project: Private residence. Woodworker: Bernhard Woodwork Ltd. Archi-tect: Von Weise Associates. Contractor: Norcon Inc. Photographer: Steve Hall, Chicago, IL. Featured in Design Solutions, fall 2022.
Worship category. Project: Trinity Church Restoration. Project owner: Trinity Church. Woodworker: Zepsa Industries. Architect: Murphy Burnham Buttrick. Contractor: Sciame Construction. Photographer: Durston Saylor, New York, NY. Featured in Design Solutions, summer 2023.

Upcoming events
The AWI’s 2024 annual convention will be held Sept. 22-24 in Amelia Island, Florida. Prior to that event, the association’s Spring Leadership Conference will take place April 14-16 in Kohler, Wisconsin. More information can be found at

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About the author
Karen Koenig | Editor

Karen M. Koenig has more than 30 years of experience in the woodworking industry, including visits to wood products manufacturing facilities throughout North America, Europe and Asia. As editor of special publications under the Woodworking Network brand, including the Red Book Best Practices resource guide and website, Karen’s responsibilities include writing, editing and coordinating of editorial content. She is also a contributor to FDMC and other Woodworking Network online and print media owned by CCI Media. She can be reached at [email protected]