NLBMDA changes focus, leadership

Paul Hylbert, the new chairman of the National Lumber and Building Material Dealers Association (NLBMDA), started his term on Oct. 2 with a new set of bylaws, a streamlined organization and a narrowed focus for the upcoming year. Hylbert, who also happens to be the CEO of Pro Build, the nation’s largest chain of lumberyards, takes the helm at a tumultuous time for both the industry and the association. He addressed these issues in his remarks at the ProDealer Industry Summit in Chantilly, Va., an event jointly sponsored by the NLBMDA and Home Channel News.

“We have done significant listening and work to understand what is most important to serve the industry going forward,” Hylbert said. “Our focus will be on doing a few things well; on legislation and regulation; on growing NLBMDA’s voice of the industry to advance our policy agenda; and on bringing dealers , manufacturers and suppliers together for top quality business and net working meetings, just as we are doing here.”

In a day full of meetings leading into the conference, NLBMDA board members and trustees decided upon a series of changes to the group’s structure and mission. Chief among them was the return to a federation, which means that the organization is to be solely comprised of state and regional trade associations. The NLBMDA will no longer en roll “direct” members who are not affiliated with a state association, a decision made several years ago that proved to be contentious.

Another area of controversy—competition with local chapters to provide dealer services and training—was addressed when the NLBMDA redefined its mission as “represent[ing] its members in the national public policy arena.”

“Advocacy is going to be our main priority in 2009,” NLBMDA president Michael O’ Brien told Home Channel News. The housing market, green building, the product delivery chain and an eco-stamp for lumber will sit at the top of the agenda, he said. The LBM Institute, which spearheaded some of these issues, will become “dormant,” O’ Brien said, until overall economic conditions improve and more corporate support is forthcoming.

To broaden the focus on issues affecting LBM dealers, the government affairs committee of the NLBMDA was split into two parts: a legislative advocacy group will be led by Diana Perenza of Florence Building Materials in Huntington, N.Y.; and a regulatory affairs group, led by Cally Fromme of Zarsky Lumber in Victoria, Texas, will focus on codes and standards.

Other newly elected NLBMDA officers for 2008 to 2009 are Dan Fesler of Lamperts, St. Paul, Minn., as the chair-elect; Joe Collings, Ferguson Lumber, Rockville, Ind., as vice chair; Linda Nussbaum, Kleet Lumber, Huntington, N.Y., as treasurer; John Somerville, Dow Chemical, Marietta, Ga., as Manufacturers & Services Council chair; Rick Seely, Michigan Lumber & Building Materials Association, Lansing, Mich., as Federated Association Executives chair.

The immediate past chair of the NLBMDA, Harold Baalmann of B&B Lumber, Wichita, Kan., gave a heartfelt and humorous farewell speech before handing over the reins to Hylbert.

“We were forced to look inward and re-evaluate our goals and our purpose,” Baalmann reflected. He thanked “all those who responded to my confidential ‘do not forward’ e-mails soliciting advice,” and noted that the NLBMDA is now working to bring former members back into the organization.