ATLANTA - As the International Woodworking Fair kicks off in Atlanta, several wood manufacturing association directors joined Tuesday to discuss progress, interests and issues facing the wood manufacturing industry.

IWF show manager Jim Wulfekuhle opened the forum, noting IWF was off to a good start with 929 companies exhibiting on the show floor--a rise from the 859 exhibitors in 2012.

The increase shows positive growth for the wood manufacturing industry, Wulfekuhle noted.

Fred Stringfellow, executive director of the Wood Machinery Manufacturers of America (WMMA), said the trend echoed among many of the WMMA's 115 exhibiting companies. Many manufacturers are adding shifts, he said. Some are faced with more job proposals than they can take on.

Looking forward, the Wood Industry Leadership Forum addressed ways to keep the industry growing.

Scott Nelson, of the Woodwork Career Alliance (WCA), reported progress in the WCA passport program. Similar to a U.S. Passport, the WCA passport is a tangible booklet with pages on which professionals can document their skills with Tool Stamps that verify tool proficiencies.

On average, Nelson said, 50 - 60 new passports are issued each month.

Nancy Fister, education and conference director of the Association of Woodworking & Furnishing Suppliers (AWFS), spoke on the association's campaign, "Meet the New Face of Manufacturing." The new initiative aims to highlight the profitable and rewarding aspects of manufacturing careers, not only to students and teachers, but also to career counselors.

Jamie Scott, president of the WMMA, discussed a curriculum designed to accompany the documentary, American Made Movie, which explores the impact of American manufacturing on both ordinary citizens and the nation through stories of U.S. entrepreneurs and businesses who are successfully competing in the global economy.

"What I'm most excited about is the curriculum," Scott noted, adding that it is less about manufacturing and more about raising consumer awareness.

With signs of growth and a positive outlook on the new workforce, the wood manufacturing industry seems to have big plans for IWF and the weeks that follow.

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