BONITA SPRINGS, FL - Business is improving, albeit slowly, for the composite panel industry. The news set the tone for the Composite Panel Association's spring annual meeting, which saw its highest attendance since 2007. More than 280 people, representing 118 woodworking firms and related organizations, converged on Bonita Springs, Florida, May 31-June 3 for the event.

Dr. Bill Conerly, Conerly Consulting LLC, kicked off Monday's session, providing an economic outlook for building materials, including a look at new opportunities and risk factors. Although the early  outlook is positive for 2015 and 2016, he cautioned companies to take a "flexible stance" when planning for a changing economic landscape. In a nutshell, he said, the most likely economic scenario will be: "better markets for composite panels, stronger growth in the rest of 2015 and for 2016, higher interest rates, and oil prices around $60 to $70."

To ensure they stayed successful, John Spence of John Spence LLC provided wood industry executives with a winning formula: (T+C+ECF) x DE =  Success. The elements in the equation represent Talent + Culture + Extreme Customer Focus, multiplied by a Disciplined Executiion. Culture, he explained, should not only reflect what corporate wants, but employees' needs as well. Spence cited a recent study which found employees are most satisfied in their jobs when the following terms are met: parity in pay, challenging work, cool colleagues, a winning culture/fun workplace, the opportunity for personal and professional growth, and a boss or leader that can admire. 

"One of my favorite sayings is 'Ambiguity breeds mediocrity,'" Spence added. To avoid that pitfall and create a good corporate culture, there needs to be: goal setting, trust, communication (open, honest, robust and transparent), accountability (personal and mutual" and recognition. "The customer's experience will never exceed the employee's experience," he added. "Create a culture that catches people doing things right."

Tuesday's panel discussion on biomass and carbon neutrality, and the growing role of wood for energy use also attracted a lot of discussion.

Founded in 1960, and with 173 members today, the CPA represents the North American composite panel industry on technical, regulatory, quality assurance and product acceptance issues.  Its 40 General Members represent nearly 95 percent of the total manufacturing capacity of particleboard, medium density fiberboard and hardboard in US, Canada and Mexico.

The CPA's next meeting will be September 13-15 in Banff, Alberta, Canada. For additional information visit




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