The most significant event for me was the annual dinner for the Cabinet Makers Association. Having been involved with this group since its founding on a snowy day in Illinois eight years ago, it was hard not to be impressed by the progress the group has made. In its early days, the CMA struggled for recognition from both its peers and the industry. To fill three tables for a dinner was an accomplishment. Longtime industry leaders and other associations were not sure what to make of this fledgling outfit.

But all of that disappeared at this year's IWF. The CMA, now with more than 300 regular members, put on a healthy schedule of events at the show, beginning with shop tours and workshops, then culminating with the annual dinner. This time there was no worry about filling tables. In fact, additional places had to be set to accommodate the more than 100 people who attended. Speakers included representatives from the Woodworking Machinery Industry Association and Stiles Machinery Inc. Clearly, the CMA has come of age.

The CMA's new president, Adam Rose of Creative Woodworking in Iliff, Colo., announced plans for more regional events outside of trade shows. The association has grown enough to stand on its own.

Certainly, the CMA's success is due to a lot of hard work by a lot of people involved with the organization, not the least of whom is the group's current staff member, DiAnna Gregory. But I also think the CMA has benefited by a maturation in the industry among small shop owners. At the IWF show, I heard almost no arguments about the value of such things as trade shows and trade associations. More shop owners are getting smarter and recognizing the power of networking and sharing information. They are less worried about other shops as competition, and they are more willing to see other shop owners as colleagues, all working together to succeed as an industry.

That's news that makes even the most astonishing new technological announcement pale by comparison. If you are a shop owner not yet involved with the CMA, do yourself the favor of checking out its Web site at  www.cabinetmakers.org. It could be one of the best tools you've ever found.

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