Meet the 2019 Wood Industry 40 Under 40
July 10, 2019 | 11:00 am CDT
Click on the image to open

This year marks the fourth annual awarding of the 40 Under 40, which celebrates the next generation of industry professionals who are making an impact on wood products manufacturing in North America.

Click on the image to open

Motivated by his “strong accountability and ambition to be better than yesterday,” Scott Bogner has built a small cabinet company into a well-established manufacturer, with sales throughout much of Kansas and into Oklahoma. “He’s not only the owner of Kitchens Inc., he is a passionate leader, with a unique skill to coach and lead his team of employees for success,” says his nominator. “He also knows how to inspire and motivate each of his employees to be better and want to succeed.”

With the help of his team of 20-plus employees, Bogner has expanded the Dodge City, Kansas-based company into different markets and products, which in turn has enabled them to “explore diverse trends, as well as give the customers top quality products on time and in budget.”

“He not only coaches and leads, but he is the top salesperson in the company, giving him the knowledge of how to work with, handle, and deliver quality service and products,” the nominator says. “With all of the stress that owning a company brings, Scott has the gift to stay levelheaded, realistic, composed and calm.  He is optimistic and keeps on trying and figuring it out until he succeeds.”

In addition to his role as president of Kitchens Inc., the 37-year-old Bogner also heads up Ellis James Inc., a countertop fabrication firm.

Click on the image to open

The owner of Greg Brown Cabinetmaker and Carver in Hooksett New Hampshire, Greg Brown is described as someone who’s “driven to do the best personally, and to inspire others to put forward their best work.”

“I first met him when he was at the North Bennet Street School, and a standout in the class,” says his nominator. “He worked with me as an intern one summer, and I was impressed with his motivation and drive.”

Today, in addition to owning his own company the 36-year-old Brown is also the treasurer of the New Hampshire Furniture Masters Association, (furnituremasters.org) an organization of professional craftsmen committed to preserving the traditions of original, fine furniture making in the United States. Brown also founded the Alden Artisan Advancement – an annual program where the awardee is matched with a seasoned mentor, given access to the jury that oversees the Furniture Masters’ standards committee, given a grant to help further a particular work, and then a place alongside the Furniture Masters to exhibit the finished piece, adds his nominator.

“Greg has not only contributed time and effort to the Furniture Masters and its programs, but has allowed other young makers to further their education and hone their design skills. In short, Greg is a consummate furniture maker, who is having a daily impact on the lives of others in this field.”

Click on the image to open

“Excellence, utility, creativity, and efficiency” are just a few of the words used to describe Patrick Brown, director of Product Development & Manufacturing at Ideations Inc. in West Babylon, Massachusetts.

“I had the opportunity to work with Patrick when I was serving as president and evaluating a purchase of his employer, Ideations, Inc.,” says the nominator. “He added tremendous value to the business through his creativity in product design, his implementation of lean methodology to allow the group to quickly implement new processes, and his product management work to maintain previous designs but working them through for improvements and profit.”

Adds the nominator, “On the back of many of Pat's improvement, the company had its most successful year both in terms of revenue and profitability,” while pricing to value rather than to the market.

Outside of work, the 39-year-old Brown is also involved in finding solutions to aid people in need. Not only has he developed a number of toys and adaptive equipment including a lightweight toddler wheelchair, to help his daughter, afflicted with spinal muscular atrophy, and others explore and thrive, in his "spare time" he and his wife have raised over $30,000 in the past two years for the CureSMA organization.

Click on the image to open

Since co-founding Millwork 360 in July 2010, Jamie Burge has been instrumental in managing the architectural millwork firm’s financial growth. In her role as CFO, she has overseen assets rise from zero to more than $11.5 million at the end of 2018.

Described as “determined,” her nominator says the 32-year-old Burge is motivated by her “desire to grow a successful company that outperforms our industry peers in both growth rate and net income.”

“Her financial planning has been invaluable during the growth, by minimizing debt and increasing equity to over $2.5 million,” he adds, “Jamie has negotiated favorable term debt with our lender and continues to increase cash reserves. [The] AR days outstanding averages 18 days and inventory turns have doubled over the past 2 years.”

Burge’s role in the Tampa, Florida-based company’s success does not stop there. “Jamie has added two new product lines over the past three years that continue to grow and increase the company's net income,” her nominator says.

In addition to her work at Millwork 360, Burge also volunteers her time and expertise on the Architectural Woodwork Institute’s Finance Committee.

Burge’s recognition in this year’s class makes it a family affair. Her brother and business partner Ben Williams was in the 2016 Class of 40 under 40.

Click on the image to open

Recently named CFO for Cohen Architectural Woodworking, Nate Cohen oversees the finances of the Saint James, Missouri-based 80-person, $11 million custom millwork components and casework firm. “He has performed and excelled in various roles for the family-owned and family-run business for some 24 years, from sweeping the shop floor at age 5 to serving in engineering, and in project management,” including most recently as Senior Project Manager, says one nominator.

A skilled woodworker, Cohen also has built chess tables for the U.S. Chess Club in St. Louis and the St. Louis Cardinals players’ clubhouse. He also has helped develop precision tracking tools for the company.

“Nate's impact on the success of Cohen Architectural Woodworking has been tremendous and he has also had a huge positive impact on the lives of many individuals. He has helped secure many large projects and ensured they were built and designed correctly, on time and on budget, whether they be for hospitals, airports and/or governmental facilities,” the nominator adds.

And despite logging more than 150 days on business travel each year, he is involved in community service. “When a tornado practically flattened the entire city of Joplin, MO, Nate and his team were asked to rebuild two important Joplin schools. Despite facing impossible deadlines Nate spearheaded this effort and his team completed the project on time for the next school year. He volunteers with several organizations, visits many less fortunate individuals, and plays a role with colleges and others who offer programs for up-and-coming woodworkers.”

Click on the image to open

Although just 18 years old, Savannah Corrales has already had a big impact on CNC Factory. The Customer Service manager, she also designed the Santa Ana, California-based company’s inventory system.

“With Savannah's attention to detail and commitment to CNC Factory's promise of customer service for life, she has helped her family's business double their sales and then some! More importantly, she helps guys like me run our cabinet businesses smoothly by getting our equipment parts and router bits on time, without unexpected downtime,” says one nominator. “Through her innovation and productivity, Savannah has impacted CNC Factory's customer satisfaction, sales, employee morale and business success.”

Says another, “She has helped hundreds of customers find their ideal equipment based on their output needs, space requirements and budgets.” And, he adds, “Customers especially enjoy Savannah’s helpful attitude and follow through to ensure their questions have been fully answered, or their parts delivered on time.”

“Besides being a great employee and phenomenally organized, Savannah has a talented visual eye,” and has helped elevate CNC Factory's YouTube channel with her production of professional-grade videos, says a third nominator. #CNCFactoryExperience has more than 40 videos with approximately 300,000 views. “Savannah has also been instrumental in promoting these videos on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Not only does she know the machinery, she knows how to portray the different models in video and how to get woodworkers to notice them.”

Click on the image to open

Since co-founding GoodWood NOLA in January of 2015, Michael Dalle Molle and partner Jordan Gurren have grown the New Orleans-based business into a leading custom furniture design/build firm.

What makes GoodWood NOLA unique is its sustainability and community efforts. Along with its tree-planting initiative, called Building the Canopy, GoodWood also offers weekend public workshops, mentorships and apprenticeships. In addition, the two founders teach Design+Build and Design Thinking as adjunct professors in the Design Department of Loyola University New Orleans each fall semester, and are also developing a woodworking therapy curriculum with the NeuroRestorative Center of LA for brain trauma patients, says the 28-year-old Dalle Molle.

Says a nominator, “Michael and his company have shown that a small business can influence the city and society around them, and the city of New Orleans is better because of him.  Whether it's boots on the ground planting trees or hosting workshops, or striving to be a ‘green’ business that helps everyone, Michael has a positive impact on every individual he comes into contact with.”

Adds another, “For as long as I've known Mike, he has had a passion for hard work, authenticity and attention to detail. He is 100% committed to crafting the best work possible, and holding himself to an exceptional standard.”

“Michael is, I believe, a perfect example of what any industry would want to see coming up through the ranks,” says a third nominator. “A young, smart, creative, socially-aware individual dedicated to giving his best effort and producing the best result for every client.”

Click on the image to open

Persistent and driven are two words used by nominators to describe Chris Danielsen, the 35-year-old owner of Danzo Group Inc., a custom cabinet and woodworking shop in Baldwin Park, California.

“Over the past 10 years, I’ve watched Chris challenge himself, develop new skills, and in turn watched his business grow. Not many people would start their own construction/custom cabinet company at the age of 19 and in the height of a recession, but Chris did. From his humble beginnings in a two-car garage to his growing staff and facility filled with traditional tools as well as high-tech modern tools, he continues to impress,” says one nominator.

Danielsen’s attention to detail and customer service also draw rave reviews. “Chris’ diligent work ethic and attention to detail have brought beautiful work that is finished on time or even at times ahead of schedule. I’ve received praise from those I have recommended his work to and if you take a look at his Houzz and Yelp reviews, they’re all flowing with positive experiences,” she added.

Adds another nominator, “What motivates Chris is his competitive spirit. Being the best, constantly teaching himself new things and building a product he is truly proud of and can stand behind. He genuinely feels there is always room to improve, ways to be more efficient, and opportunity to grow.

“He continues to contribute to the next generation of woodworking professionals.”

Click on the image to open

Rooted in the community, Sam Devenport, CEO of Chicago-based 57st design, “is equally passionate about building his business and developing his workforce. His technical skills and entrepreneurial spirit have led to immediate success for his furniture design and manufacturing business. At the same time his ties to the south side of Chicago have led him to commit to growing his business there, benefiting individuals in neighborhoods sorely in need of this type of investment and opportunity,” says the nominator.

After learning of Greater West Town Training Partnership through one of his employees, the 30-year-old Devenport immediately got involved. He is on the advisory board and a regular guest speaker. “Most importantly, he has provided inspiration and motivation to students by hiring multiple graduates of the program while committing to continuing their training on the job. Sam builds his own workforce but just as importantly ensures that the training program thrives for the benefit of the community at large.”

Devenport, the nominator adds, also “is clearly motivated by his passion for woodworking, modern design and quality craftsmanship. His definition of ‘Good Design’ doesn't stop with appearances or even materials and construction.  Good design for him must ‘...create value not just for the end user of a product, but for the people who produce it as well.’”

Click on the image to open

The CEO of USA Millwork,  “Patrick Dickinson is changing the millwork industry.  He has led the charge to one of the fastest-growing millwork companies in the nation,” says one nominator.

Headquartered in Duluth, Georgia, USA Millwork combines the expertise of four longtime regional manufacturers spread throughout the United States: IBS Millwork, O’Keefe Millwork, Cabinets by Design, and Freelance Millwork.

“Patrick is the mastermind behind USA Millwork,” says another nominator. “ He is a highly motivated professional that brings a ‘new to the industry’ mindset that is revolutionary on both the people and process sides of the business. Patrick is personally investing time to get to know every employee, every customer and every vendor. His energy level is unsurpassed infectious, and his positivity amongst staff and customers has lit a rocket in a highly effective manner. His commitment to detail is unsurpassed and the ability to multi-task on complex issues while maintaining a solid decorum is impressive and unique.”

A third nominator notes Dickinson’s “relentless pursuit to challenge the norm, always inspiring others to drive visions to successful completion.”  She adds, “Under his leadership, USA Millwork is thriving and will undoubtedly become THE leading millwork provider in the U.S. by leveraging best-in-industry project management, exceptional customer care, and new technologies to collaborate with customers.”

Click on the image to open

Called a “solution creator,” Greg Dilone “represents the next generation of wood products professionalism and has a creativity that brings excitement to a mature industry.  His ability to connect opportunities with multiple surfacing and processing resources is refreshing,” says one nominator of the 33-year-old Dilone, Specialty Account manager at MJB Wood Group in Portage, Michigan,

Another nominator adds, “Greg has great strength in the ability to ‘sell’ an idea or solution. He is unmatched in his enthusiasm and charisma for what he does, and has an unrelenting spirit in the projects he is engaged in. He's an out-of-the-box thinker who sees opportunity in every difficulty.”

Dilone “is a disruptor plain and simple. If you want to simply talk about things and spin wheels, Greg is not your guy. Greg wants to make things happen, he is a doer, a force who knows how to make solutions happen. He will motivate everyone around him to assess, plan, create and ultimately solve any challenge put in front of him with great success. When he is part of my team, I can breathe a sigh of relief, knowing every last detail will be taken care of with the best solutions, technically, creatively, on time, on budget and always with the greatest enthusiasm and sense of accomplishment,” says a third nominator.

“He excites and inspires his colleagues above and below him,” notes a fourth.

Click on the image to open

The COO of Fabuwood Cabinetry  Corp.  Joel Epstein, 39, “has been an inspiration to me personally, and to so many in the industry,” says his nominator. “A true motivational leader and visionary, Joel is admired by all those who come in contact with him.”

Epstein co-founded the Newark, NJ-based cabinetry firm while in his 20s, and his efforts have helped  Fabuwood grow into a nationally recognized provider of kitchen cabinets.  From a 115,000-square-foot facility and less than 40 employees in 2009, “his vision and leadership have had a dynamic effect on the growth of the company, which now manufactures out of its new state-of-the-art 1 million-square-foot headquarters, employing over 800 people,” she says.

A number of others have also submitted testimonials on Epstein’s impact, not only at the company, but within the community and industry itself.  “Joel has a knack for identifying both talent and business opportunity, both keys to a successful business. He has worked side by side with his partner and team to build Fabuwood with grace and finesse to be a leading cabinetry company, which has also had a positive impact on the industry.  The proof is the positive growth and performance year after year, and the continued loyalty of the employees,”

Adds a co-worker, “Joel has that rare ability to inspire others to reach beyond their abilities and achieve more than what they would have thought themselves capable of. Knowing Joel and having him in your life is a privilege and a gift.”

Click on the image to open

Nominated by eight people, Hannah Faria Khalaf “goes above and beyond” when it comes to representing SurfPrep by Dixon, a national provider of award-winning hand sanding and abrasive solutions headquartered in Lake Elsinore, California.

In charge of the company’s multi-media marketing, the 28-year-old has made the job of sanding fun, say two nominators. “Her social media posts and videos are always both entertaining and educational. Her hashtag #MakingSandingSexy and #SurfPrepSanding are keeping the fun in sanding!” Also, they add, “By coming up with new and different ways to prepare surfaces for paint and stain, [Hannah] is keeping the 'cool' in sanding and bringing attention to the woodworking industry for this younger generation.”

“She loves the trades and has a passion for teaching young people how to accomplish their goals,” adds a customer who nominated her.

“I have never seen anyone so motivated to make a change in our industry,” says another, with a fifth nominator adding, “Her around-the-clock work ethic and strong marketing efforts have had a tremendous impact on the company’s success.”

A nominator adds, “Hannah loves showing new solutions. She also loves to improve her customers’ performance and experiences while saving them time. Knowing she has made a difference motivates her to keep helping everyone she meets.”

“In a very short time through her commitment, innovation and responsibilities at Dixon Enterprises have put SurfPrep on the map,” adds another.

Click on the image to open

Since launching Gerarden Fabrication & Design two years ago in his garage, Codey Gerarden’s custom woodworking shop has grown significantly, and is now located in a 2,000-square-foot facility in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Projects are shipped monthly to multiple U.S. states, with pieces also sold to clients in Canada, Italy, and most recently Amsterdam.

In addition to creating jobs in the community, the  31-year-old owner, furniture designer and craftsman mentors younger woodworkers and “has also contributed to a multitude of non-profits and charities, and has pledged to donate proceeds from large sales to certain families in times of need,” says his nominator.

“Codey has been able to achieve all of the above while remaining an active and dedicated young father, and a full-time college student.  He will graduate as a member of the honor society for his academic achievement (this year), with a degree in prototype and design.  Codey also has offered to fund a scholarship to future prototype and design students;  that project is in development currently,” she added.

Gerarden’s efforts have also gained the notice of officials in Green Bay, where he has discussed ways in which local government can help the rapid growth of small businesses. In addition, “The local Chamber of Commerce will be touring our facility and has offered him a grant to participate in a 15-day event spanning Paris, London, and Birmingham, UK, in order to procure an international wholesale purchaser,” she said.

Click on the image to open

Growing up in a missionary family in Papua, New Guinea, Mullin Green would receive woodworking tools from his grandfather in the United States. At 17, he came to Narrow Gate Foundation, a non-profit organization based in Tennessee,  in search of the answers to two questions: Who Am I and Why Am I Here?

His nominator relates, “Our eight-month residential experience includes time and training in our woodshop, so for the first time Mullin began to learn woodworking.  He was a natural and showed great interest and personal motivation.  Over the past two years, as Mullin has grown and matured and developed impressive skills in the woodshop, he's become  a leader, a man of influence and solid character, and uses his love and gift of woodworking to impact others.”

Following an internship after graduation, he joined the staff in January as the Artisan Shop Coordinator. Today, the 21-year-old Green shares “his knowledge, his time, his heart and his passion for woodworking with other young men his age.  He's also preparing to impact our international students who will arrive this Fall – 10 young men from countries like Liberia, Fiji, Ghana and Uganda.  Mullin will be teaching them basic joinery, how to use hand tools and help set them on the journey of becoming actual craftsmen that can impact their local communities.”

Click on the image to open

Called “a caring leader focused on disrupting the design and manufacturing industries,” Marcus Hall, 36, is the president and owner of a 50-person California Closets franchise, serving the Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Dayton, Louisville, Lexington and Central Illinois areas.

Hall, says his nominator, is continually focused on ways to further integrate [virtual reality] not only into the design and manufacturing process, but to use it to elevate the client experience. “This company continues to push the boundaries of what’s possible within the world of custom furniture through the use of technology,” she says. “In addition to leveraging new and innovative technology his business has elevated their customer experience to deliver an annual NPS score that rivals the likes of Ritz Carlton, Apple or Disney.”

Hall also has created a platform to host events at showrooms, where experts from the design and technology industry come together to share best practices. He was recently featured in the Spring 2019 Harvard Business Review and frequently speaks on the topic of customer experience and net-promoter-score.

His nominator adds, “Marcus is hyper-focused on creating a transformational workplace and knows that by doing so he will be enabling his team to deliver on their brand promise. Their entire team is focused on designing better lives for their teammates, their community and their clients.”

Click on the image to open

Shortly after Rachel Jacobs joined Brown Wood Inc. in 2016,  “It was soon apparent that her ability to generate ideas, manage projects and create unique marketing programs for three different business entities required a more important role,” says her nominator. Quickly promoted to marketing manager at the Lincolnwood, Illinois-based firm, “she spent the last two years revamping the marketing assets for all three division by creating new, memorable branding that united Brown Wood Inc.’s unique brands.”

"While managing the development of the company’s new website, she also created an extensive social media presence for the company’s Designs of Distinction brand, helped brand and launch a new line of furniture components, Designs of Distinctions - Furniture Findings®, and increased the company’s SEO.” The 28-year-old Jacobs is also the co-founder of #remodelchat, a bi-monthly Twitter chat for AEC professionals.

“By creating an active and engaged community on Twitter and Instagram, Rachel has taken a century-old woodworking company and brought it into the 21st century,” her nominator says. “Her work has resulted in not only more leads and engagement, but more qualified leads.” In addition: she increased organic impressions on Twitter and Instagram by over 1400%, her SEO endeavors increased lead generation for BWI’s Made to Spec contract manufacturing by 150%; and the email marketing open rate increased by over 36%.

Jacobs, she added, is “tenacious. Rachel doesn't sit still until a project is complete, and completed correctly. Her work ethic is second to none and she expects no less from the people that work with her.”

Click on the image to open

Called a “true team leader,” Mike Jensen, 38, production manager at Worcester, Massachusetts-based Continental Woodcraft LLC, “is always willing to help out anyone in the company. He always has a positive can-do attitude and that positive attitude is spread throughout our Hive and makes it a better place to work.”

“Mike’s attitude and dedication to his work enable Continental Woodcraft employees to produce the top-notch quality millwork products that can be found in prestigious locations around the United States. Furthermore, his employees know that he has their best interest at heart,” says another nominator. “That knowledge gives the Continental Woodcraft production team the motivation to put their best foot forward every day, working for a person who they know legitimately cares about them.”

 “I have seen a transformation of attitudes, work ethic and profitability within our production and warehouse division of our company,” another notes. “[Mike] is a bright light that always has a smile on, is willing to help and mentor, and offers his opinion and suggestions on how to improve processes. I do not have percentages, but I know for a fact since hiring him we’ve increased our profitability by staying within or below target on the hours that are estimated per millwork and tradeshow job. Another impact, which I think is just as important, is his desire to hire more youth workers in the shop. It’s been a real struggle trying to get the youth involved in a manufacturing profession, so he’s agreed to help me create an internship or apprentice program to encourage the youth that this could be a potential career for them.”

Click on the image to open

Although just 24-years-old, Kirby Kendrick has increased Kendrick Inc.'s veneer log sales by over 200%, has been instrumental in helping the Edgewood, Iowa-based firm grow from two companies to five, and spurred the installation of new equipment to increase employee safety and productivity.

He also spearheaded a project that will help Iowa forest industry companies be more competitive. “His work with the IWIA in the passing of Iowa's Raw Forestry bill will allow companies in Iowa to get a permit to haul overweight loads of raw forestry products,” says his nominator. “This allows Iowa companies to be more competitive with those in neighboring states that already have similar bills.”

“Because of his leadership qualities, Kirby has been known to be considered wise beyond his years and these qualities have allowed him the opportunity to work alongside many other leaders in the industry, community, and government. He uses his networking and contacts to create teams of people to support causes that he believes will have positive impacts.”

Kendrick also has served as a member of the HMA Next Gen Leaders council, and is an elected member of his City Council. He is on the board of directors at the local childcare facility, and encourages students. He is also a volunteer firefighter.

“Kirby is motivated by opportunity but also just by doing the 'right thing.' Seeing success in his company, industry, community, and co-workers motivates him to continue. He gets excited when he sees a group of people come together to solve a problem for the greater good.”

Click on the image to open

 “Véronic Landry not only is a researcher with more than 10 years of industrial experience in wood product innovation and head of an industrial research chair in wood finishing, but is also a leader and a great mentor training the next generation of wood researchers,” says her nominator.  An associate professor in the Wood Engineering Department at Laval University in Quebec, Landry’s research focuses on improving the resistance, look and performance of interior wood finishes, including UV and water-based coatings, with innovations such as improved polymerization, fire retardancy, self-healing and chemical coloration.

Part of a $2.3 million CAD industrial research program, “Her research aims to overall increase performance of wood products through innovative green interior wood finishing and densification,” the nominator adds. “Through her research chair, she impacts both the academic research and the industrial wood market by bringing innovative solutions to the wood finishing world. Working closely with wood products manufacturers, finishing manufacturers and chemical suppliers, she ensures that her research addresses industrial challenges,” she continues.

“Her chair of research will train over 40 students within five years, conducting projects on green interior wood finishes and densified wood. Her personality and passion for innovation make her an inspiring and motivating mentor for her students.”

Click on the image to open

Motivated by the desire to inspire others in the woodworking industry, Jim Larin, the operations and sales manager at Toronto-based Fuji Industrial Spray Equipment Ltd., "is an educator who invests all of his time and effort into educating others, helping them achieve better success in all of their woodworking efforts. His genuine approach and attitude have ignited excitement in the industry as he selflessly ensures that each and every woodworker has the tools to succeed. In addition to his skillset, Jim has presented at Fuji Spray Finishing workshops in Canada, the Kingston Woodworkers Association in Canada, AWFS Las Vegas, IWF Atlanta, and overseas in the UK, Ireland, and Asia,” says one of his four nominators.

Adds another, “I have witnessed Jim’s masterful instructional techniques during Fuji Spray workshops.  There he demonstrates his rare ability to break down highly technical information into terms attendees can readily grasp, then apply successfully back in their own shops.  Those same characteristics are very evident in his many Youtube videos, designed to encourage finishers at every level to achieve optimal results and grow beyond their potential.”

The 28-year-old Larin is also known for his efforts in getting young adults more involved in the trades. In addition, “Jim’s ability to reach out to others in simplifying complex systems and procedures and dispelling myths about spray finishing has enhanced the ability of small to mid-sized companies to more effectively compete with larger companies in terms of finish quality and cost savings.”

Click on the image to open

Devoted, dedicated, leader, wise, consistent and thoughtful are just a few of the words used to describe John Lasell, 40, engineering manager at Continental Woodcraft LLC, in Worcester, Massachusetts.

“Having a strong leader in the engineering department helps to minimize bottlenecks and reduce second-guessing in the shop,” says one of his five nominators. “Having strong design experience also helps to creatively cure engineering issues as they arise. He creates a great bridge between management and the shop.”

Another nominator notes, “Our company runs like a well-oiled machine because of John's attention to detail. You always know you can go to John with questions and he will work his hardest to find the answers for you.”

Along with instilling a culture of comradery and collaboration within his division, Lasell and his team are changing the culture and view of the architectural millwork industry by young adults. “He is invested in bringing more young professionals into the industry by making engineering, project management and cabinetry a yearned profession to go in. He’s always encouraging his team to get involved in company-wide events, and is also excited to help kick off [our] apprentice program,” adds another.

Lasell also goes above and beyond, including out in the field to laser template sites and meet with contractors “to keep his finger on the pulse of the jobs. He takes pride in all areas of the business and wants to make sure our clients are getting the quality of work and customer service we assured them they’d get.”

Click on the image to open

Considered “wise beyond his years,” Daniel Levin, the 32-year-old president of GL Veneer, has spurred efforts by the veneer provider to better its metrics set in sales, production, profitability and safety.  He is also helping to foster a more cohesive company culture at the Huntington Park, California-based company.

Incentive programs, as well as a new ERP system, have been implemented to “boost, keep and improve on goals set” at the family-owned company. And as GL Veneer continues to expand its product portfolio of architectural plywoods, flexible wood veneers, Wallwood real wood wallpaper and live edge slabs with new offerings, Levin’s insight and influence will continue to be instrumental in the company’s success.

“Daniel is a high-impact individual,” says his nominator. “He has a true appreciation and love for the natural wood products we produce.  Building the culture of our endeavor, we call ourselves a ‘Tribe of wood experts, doing right by our customers, by each other, and by the trees,’” his nominator adds. “All the things that building this culture entails, motivates Daniel.”

Click on the image to open

The executive director of the Vermont Wood Works Council, Erin Lorentz promotes the state’s forest and wood products industry, as well as Vermont Working Lands, a statewide initiative to provide grant funding to forest products and agricultural businesses. Lorentz, 37, also works for the Vermont Woodlands Association and serves on the Vermont Forest Industry Network committee as chair of the Local Wood Action team.  She also organized and helped run the Vermont Fine Furniture and Wood Products Design Competition, according to her nominator, and has partnered with local industries on the cross-promotion of Vermont wood products in their markets.

“I am nominating Erin Lorentz because her work over the past 13 years has not just been one of a young person doing great work at her job, but additionally she has shown an unwavering dedication and passion to her work, and clearly sees and understands the big picture of the entire Vermont wood products industry, and the important role of her work in achieving what is necessary to make the industry survive and thrive into the future,” he says.

She has also worked with major funding sources at the state, regional and federal level on grant funding for businesses. Under her leadership, the Vermont Wood Works Council also has started an annual "Emerging Woodworker" award to new startup businesses, to encourage and help promote young people entering the industry.

Click on the image to open

The COO of Timberline Cabinet Doors Inc., Brett Messer has been nominated for his organizational leadership, profitability, peer inspiration and social good.

Messer, 39, took a leadership role at the multi-million dollar Cedar City, Utah-based company in July 2018, following the sudden death of his brother Mark, the company’s founder. “He did it while missing his brother and business partner deeply, but many people were depending on the company for their livelihood. Not only did he whole-heartedly delve into continuing the success of this progressive cabinetry business, he persevered to grow sales by 15 percent.  At the same time, Brett continued to honor his brother by keeping all 68 employees engaged in the business, motivated and employed.

“Each day Brett inspires Timberline Cabinet Doors' employees to perform their best to honor Mark, their customers, and to deliver the highest standards in the industry,” says his nominator.

A captain in the Utah Air National Guard, Messer and his unit have also helped provide rural areas in Morocco with healthcare. “Under Brett's leadership and through his own initiative, the Utah Air National Guard also gives hundreds of toys to Moroccan children visiting the hospital. Many Timberline Cabinet Doors customers, vendors and community friends donate to bring joy to these children, and make going to the hospital a better experience.”

Click on the image to open

“Driven” is one of the many words used to describe Troy Myers, lead manufacturing engineer at JC Manufacturing in Emory, Texas.

“I've been in this industry 25-plus years, and have worked hundreds of people during this time span, and have never have I been so impressed with a person's growth in this industry as I have been with Troy,” says the nominator of 26-year-old Myers.

“The positive impact from his dedication to his job is making large projects more manageable. From the optimization of materials to increased production through lean construction methods, all have a positive impact on the bottom line of our company.”

Myers was unfamiliar with the casework manufacturing industry when he first joined JC as a general laborer.  “Recognizing his strong work ethic, we started him on a build table, and then moved him into the mill shop a couple of months later.  Everything he did, he did with enthusiasm and an eagerness to learn more and more.” With a background in computers, Myers quickly moved to CNC work,  including writing G-codes. He now does all the casework engineering for production via Cabinet Vision.

“When presented a problem, he has the unique ability to think outside normal parameters and provide a solution that is both effective and efficient.  Through all of this, he remains humble, and thus earning the respect of his co-workers including those of us with many more years of experience in the industry.”

Click on the image to open

In the five years since Sam Nichols became national sales manager for Ritter Machinery Co. / Evans Midwest, the equipment manufacturer has grown more than 20 percent annually. “Sam has been integral to our growth and has taken three national brands (Ritter, Evans and Midwest Automation) to the next level,” says his nominator.

Nichols is also praised for his customer service. A problem-solver, “when a customer comes to us with a problem, he takes pride in finding the right solution, and develops a relationship built around trust. Ultimately, he strives for 100 percent customer satisfaction and ensures our customers walk away with a quality piece of machinery, every time.” Nichols, the nominator adds, has also “become an expert translator – bridging the gap between customer needs, engineered capabilities, and delivered machinery.”

“Sam has demonstrated his keen ability to learn new machinery, develop relationships and provide timely solutions for our customers. In managing our dealer network, he has developed a strong network of over 60 dealers and distributors that ultimately need to reflect our company values when they interact with customers and sell our machinery.”

In addition to his full-time day job, Nichols coaches football at the high school through college levels. “His passion for the sport and his relationship with these players has enabled our company to hire several of them over the years, from internships through full-time engineers.”  Nichols and his family also serve as foster parents in the state of Michigan.

Click on the image to open

Henry Nisiobincki, manager, Materials Technical Services at American Woodmark Corp., “is establishing himself as a thought leader and is helping coach the industry to best practices,” says his nominator.

The 27-year-old Nisiobincki manages the RFID program from a corporate level and works closely with the Winchester, Virginia-based cabinet manufacturer’s various plants to understand processes, identify key issues, and develop unique and innovative RFID technology solutions to relieve those issues.

Through the use of RFID, American Woodmark is able to identify the history of each unique part, and use that information to help measure quality, control process flows and improve inventory accuracy.

“[Henry] believes in a rational approach to business operations, and he likes to advance that,” his nominator adds. Nisiobincki has shared some of his firm's unique and extensive applications of RFID with others in the woodworking industry, including at the 2019 Executive Briefing Conference.

Click on the image to open

Driven, dynamic and a forward thinker are just some of the words used to describe Lance O’Brien, Functional Hardware Specialist at O’BH Associates LLC, a provider of supplies for the furniture, fixture and cabinet industries.

“He’s a dynamic businessman, moving our industry forward,” says one of the six people who nominated the 31-year-old O’Brien. Others mention his commitment to quality and service, and his vision not only for the company, but for the industry.

“Lance’s understanding of our industry is exceptional,” says another. “When he introduces new products to us, he has done his research – and he knows what he is talking about.  For example, he introduced Samet (hardware) to the USA, but before he did, he spent several months in Turkey at the factory learning about the product.”

“He's a bold innovator with new ideas and strategies to service his clients,” adds another. “Lance has the unique ability to relate to Millennials, Gen-Xers, Baby Boomers and people from ‘The Greatest Generation.’”

O’Brien’s communication skills, ingenuity, leadership and work ethic have also had a significant impact on the Colleyville, Texas-based company. “Lance is growing revenue at an amazing pace. In 2018 he generated $4 million in new revenue and is on track to generate $8.5 million in revenue in 2019,” says a co-worker.

Click on the image to open

Hans Parker is passionate about his work, and education. The owner of Kalamazoo, Michigan-based Board Foot Co., “[Hans] is quite involved with the local high school, nearby technical school, and also with his chapter of AIA,” note two of his five nominators. “He knows that educating others about the woodworking industry is needed and necessary, not only to target future employees but also to inform architects and designers about what is possible and profitable.”

Parker has also said he would be willing to help pay for an employee's continuing education to help further his or her career. “With the workforce shortage that we have in the U.S., Hans’ approach to helping [employees and students] gain valuable skills without taking on crushing debt, will improve the economy for years to come. As a millennial (34 years old), he’s extremely driven and forward-thinking. He’s a businessman first, and then a craftsman, which is unique for small shop owners.”

Another nominator adds, “Hans is a creative and innovative thinker and has excellent problem-solving skills. The vision that Hans brings to his company is present in recent accomplishments.”

For example, he says, “Board Foot recently completed an office 'hive' structure for our new office headquarters.  The space Hans created with the use of CNC technology, innovative joinery and simple assembly methodology resulted in a well-crafted yet functional sculptural element within our workspace.  Hans is motivated by where technology can take him within the woodworking world.”

Click on the image to open

A Business in Vancouver “40 Under 40” winner and Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year finalist, Ankit Sharma owns Kitply, a successful wood products business in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Since its launch 10 years ago, Kitply has expanded into a recognized national wholesale distributor of hardware and plywood, earning an International Trade Award and Employer of the Year award. It has more than $5 million in annual revenues and sells 20,000 products from all over the globe.

Kitply is guided by five core values: Dreaming Big, Fun & Positive Work Environment, No One is Pigeon-Holed, and Giving Back. Contributions are given to organizations that help eradicate poverty, reduce the impact of diseases, preserve the environment, protect and support the rights of minorities, and promote education. For example, Kitply has established a $20,000 endowment fund to award a $1,000 scholarship in perpetuity to disabled students at the local trade college/university, notes the nominator.

Within the work environment, “Ankit has carefully nurtured each member of staff to bring out the best in their abilities, which begets validation, inner strength, confidence and positivity. Each team member radiates, and it shows by their personal achievements, and the achievements of the company.”

He adds, “[Ankit’s] philosophy that the best way to do business is by putting other people first and his genuine ability to help solve other people’s problems has earned him a remarkable reputation, and a worldwide network of strong, positive business and personal relationships.” A philanthropist, the 34-year-old Sharma also donates thousands of dollars to charities around the world.

Through his blog, “Make Wood Sexy,” Sharma also hopes to “help the industry flourish and regenerate interest in young people who sometimes see it as unsexy and boring.”

Click on the image to open

In the short time since Shayn Smith helped launched SmithMade, the custom woodworking shop has already gained notice for its high-end custom tables, bespoke furniture and wood flooring, including artistic medallions and parquet.  At the company’s manufacturing facility located in Shelby Township, Michigan, SmithMade also develops innovative concepts for architects and designers all over the world.

Smith, the owner of SmithMade, has instilled in the company an emphasis on craftsmanship, quality and customer service. Community service is also important, and the 33-year-old Smith helps others in the Detroit community to learn woodworking while instilling in them an appreciation for the art and craftsmanship.

Says his nominator, “Shayn has a  genuine love for the craft that he does, and he wants to share it with others.”  He adds,  “Shayn has an impact on everyone he meets and tries to instill in everyone the amazing craftsmanship that woodworkers have.

“Mentoring local teachers and classrooms to try different things is what makes Shayn and SmithMade unique.”

Click on the image to open

Michael Thornberry, vice president and partner at Clay City, Kentucky-based Powell Valley Millwork, “has a significant impact on our sales growth, new product line innovation, and customer relations with our client base across North America,” says his nominator. “In addition to business development, he remains focused on sharing the positive story of forestry products, secondary manufacturing, and millwork consumption through various outlets including social media, trade publications, and communication directly with our elected officials.”

The 33-year-old Thornberry is the 2019 Membership chairman for the  Kentucky Forest Industries Association. “Along with business development, Michael has also staked out our position regarding the damaging effects that the exportation of hardwood logs poses to our industry.  Through his communication to local, state, and federal officials, we are generating interest and response to a growing concern in the hardwood manufacturing space.”

Adds the nominator, “We continue to see our sales volume increase and recognize the tangible benefits of his outreach and ingenuity in the marketplace.  I also believe he is impacting the entire forestry industry of Kentucky with his work.  Michael never misses an opportunity to share the value of American hardwoods as a renewable resource with our local community, industry stakeholders, and other interested parties.  Powell Valley Millwork is proud to be a zero-wood waste facility with our byproducts being used for fuel in a waste-fired boiler or sold as animal bedding.”

Click on the image to open

Two years ago, Sam Turner had never run a sawmill nor knew much about logging, “but when given the opportunity to learn these skills so he could impact young men in foreign countries, he jumped at the chance,” says his nominator.

Turner is the program coordinator for Narrow Gate Exchange, a Tennessee-based non-profit organization committed to providing training, resources and other services to others from various countries. Trained by Wood-Mizer, he currently manages Narrow Gate’s two sawmills and the log yard. “Soon, he will have two more Wood-Mizer sawmills and 10 international students from Ghana, Liberia, Fiji and Uganda to train,” she adds.

“Sam is passionate about helping young men, like himself, to have opportunities to get world-class training that can impact their communities, their families and their country. At the age of just 24, Sam has the opportunity to impact lives daily during his work through Narrow Gate, plus, he'll be impacting other countries for many years to come through the international students he'll be training through NG Exchange,” she continued.

Turner will also travel to the countries to provide ongoing training, as needed, she said. “He has a love for others, adventure, working with his hands – and sawmilling.” And of course, “being part of something bigger than himself.”

Click on the image to open

Described as motivated and willing to take on anything, John VanErem has had numerous accomplishments in his career.

In addition to his role as vice president at Kansas City, Kansas-based RCS Millwork, VanErem is on the Architectural Woodwork Institute’s (AWI) estimating national seminar team, “where he travels the U.S. teaching what he knows about the best practices in the field of woodwork estimating,” and was a past president of the AWI Heart of America, where he won the coveted “chapter of the year” award, says his nominator.

“He is also is constantly looking to help those right behind him, so this industry is sustained,” she adds. The 38-year-old VanErem is on the advisory board for Pittsburg State and has been the chairman of the Blue Valley high school advisory board. “His love is for the ‘future employee,’ where he is heavily involved with inviting high school and college kids to work for internships. On top of that, he heads down to Pitt State to teach a day-long class to the college students. You will also frequently find John on a tour of the shop, where is taking a group of Cub Scouts to show them the exciting profession of woodworking,” she continues.

“He loves what he does, and he loves to show other people that he was part of the team who made it.”

Click on the image to open

A year after taking the reins as CEO at Micro Jig, Bruce Wang has been “taking the woodworking industry by storm – disrupting the market with his innovative product lines aimed at making woodworking safer and smarter,” says his nominator.

 Founded in 2001 by Wang’s father, Henry, Micro Jig specializes in table saw accessories, with top rankings on Amazon and other sites. The Winter Park, Florida-based manufacturer was also named to the Florida Companies to Watch list by GrowFL.

“But Bruce hasn’t rested on the company’s laurels. He has focused his talented team on taking the celebrated brand further, creating new products and finding new ways to enrich the livelihood and passion of so many woodworkers,” she says.

Community service is also important to Wang. The 33-year-old co-founded the Orlando chapter of One Brick, and he and his wife founded Bee Humble, a humanitarian initiative to bring hope, health and dignity to the world’s most vulnerable people. Last year, Wang and Micro Jig also announced a nationwide program with the goal of donating two of the company’s flagship product, the GRR-RIPPER, to every public U.S. school with a table saw. “The donation is expected to be more than $325,000 – a huge feat to reach the 2,700-plus high schools with Career Technical Education Programs. This also underscores the company’s mission to end all table saw injuries by 2020,” the nominator adds.

“In these ways, Micro Jig is not only helping keep woodworkers safe, it is helping the next generation to foster that same passion. This impact on the industry is immeasurable.”

Click on the image to open

The managing partner at WoodCraft Designers & Builders, Lukasz Wasiak’s efforts have helped grow the Canton, Massachusetts-based architectural millwork firm from $750,000 the first year, to more than $10 million annual sales in six years.

“His work ethic, drive and relentless push for perfection have provided enormous growth for a once small operational woodshop. Now, at 33, he's had a few years under his belt and while currently shifting into a bigger organizational structure, he still manages to keep a lot of those small business traits in-house. That has really kept the employee morale and bond very strong,” says his nominator.

“While there have been some bumps in the road with growing pains, he's managed to keep this company together and provide a brotherhood work atmosphere with employees wanting to keep pushing and working hard towards the company goals,” he adds.

“Lukasz, I feel, is motivated by providing owners, clients and businesses with a superior product that they can be proud of. The look on the owners’ face when they see what WoodCraft has designed, built and installed in their spaces is something he lives for. A sense of accomplishment with all the long hours and hard work, to see it all pay off at the end with an extremely happy client.”

Click on the image to open

The Creative Technician at North American Plywood Corp., Marshall Williams “is pioneering the art of direct to substrate digital staining/printing.  This process is new to the woodworking industry and very limited guidelines are available.  Marshall’s background is in creative design and he is applying his talents to the woodworking industry,” says his nominator.

 Williams, 39, can use his talents to create an unlimited number of designs for customers, including exotic woods, protected species, and colors never imagined with sustainable wood products. “Since Marshall uses sustainable wood products, he can create consistent quality, supply, and flawless repeatable panels in limitless quantities.  This will help conserve protected species and still offer real wood products, digitally stained.”

“Marshall has always accepted challenges to achieve the clients’ wishes and provide them with a product that meets or exceeds their expectations. His motivation for this is to be on the cutting edge of design and offering solutions that have never been able to be achieved until now,” he adds.

Based in Parsippany, New Jersey, North American Plywood Corp. is a specialty plywood importer/wholesaler that offers specialty coatings, finishes, CNC machining and custom sizing of its products.

Click on the image to open

The owner of Humble, Texas-based Wilson Custom Carpentry, Brandon Wilson has earned recognition for “his dedication to excellence in his craft and the positive impact he provides in the local community,” says his nominator.

“His passion for helping others is one of the main attributes that has contributed to his success in life. He has worked with organizations such as Habitat for Humanity and dedicated a lot of time and resources to Houstonians during Hurricane Harvey,” she says.  He is also the associate director of Suits for Sons, a non-profit organization focused on enriching the lives of young men.

Wilson's passion for woodworking began at the age of 7, learned alongside his grandfather. Today, the 36-year-old Wilson continues to educate himself on new methods to improve his craft. He also “focuses on educating his customers and making sure that he provides an experience, and not just a service,” she adds. “Since starting Wilson Custom Carpentry in 2016, he has impacted over 50 residential customers and over 300 students through education and mentoring.”

“Brandon is motivated by helping others. He loves when customers give him positive feedback beyond the scope of the work he performed. He also wants to create employment opportunities for others with the vision for his company, and see families and communities impacted by his work.”

Click on the image to open

Derick Wyman, the owner/managing partner of California Hardwoods, has been recognized for his advocacy, innovation, and leadership in the wood industry.

The 25-year-old Wyman founded the Cottonwood, California-based furniture design/ manufacturing company four years ago as an offshoot to the existing family business, Wyman Enterprises, a small lumber mill in northern California that specializes in urban forestry.

 “Derick originally founded California Hardwoods while he was finishing up a degree in Political Science at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego. Instead of following the destructive millennial myth narrative, Derick was able to carve out his own path and became his own employer. On top of being a leader for his peers and family, Derick was also able to utilize many of the materials – and created new markets – for some of the material that we had a hard time selling wholesale,” says his nominator.

“The word that I would use to describe Derick is 'resilient'. I've seen obstacle after obstacle thrown at Derick just to see him brush himself off and take care of what he needs to take care of to achieve his dreams.” He adds,  “Derick's biggest motivation is to provide for his family and give back to his community. Currently, we are looking at expanding operations and bringing more jobs back to Derick's hometown in Northern California.”

Click on the image to open

Honorees of the Wood Industry 40 Under 40 Class of 2019 have been announced by Woodworking Network. This year marks the fourth annual awarding of the 40 Under 40, which celebrates the next generation of industry professionals who are making an impact on wood products manufacturing in North America.

All facets of the wood products industry are represented in this year's class, including manufacturers, suppliers, designers and educators.

"For four years we have been celebrating the career paths of the best and brightest young leaders in the wood products manufacturing industry and each year the nominees have been outstanding," said Tim Fixmer, CEO of CCI Media, the parent of Woodworking Network. "The 2019 class joins more than 120 alumni, all of whom continue to make a profound impact on the industry.  Their contributions to the companies and organizations that are blessed with their leadership skills are truly awe inspiring. I have no doubt that the future will be brighter and the industry will be stronger thanks to the 40 Under 40 Class of 2019."

View the slideshow (arranged in alphabetical order) to find out more about this year's class of honorees. The 2019 Wood Industry 40 Under 40 is sponsored by Timber Products Co. and Hexagon Manufacturing Intelligence: Cabinet Vision and Alphacam.

Honorees will be recognized at a special Leadership Reception on July 16 in Las Vegas, the evening prior to the AWFS Fair. Click here for information on attending this special event.

Have something to say? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

Profile picture for user karenkoenig
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 karen.koenig@woodworkingnetwork.com