Mr Wagner’s optimistic prognosis was a welcome message to the assembly. It was also apparently a shared belief, as evidenced by the strong attendance: A total of 345 APA member company representatives, industry suppliers and other stakeholders and guests convened for the three-day event in the Gulf Coast city. That was up some 15% from the previous year and almost 25% from 2009.

“It is encouraging to see so many of you here today, given that we are now more than four years into this protracted economic downturn,said Mr Wagner, who is executive vice president of OSB at Louisiana-Pacific (LP). “But I am not really too surprised by the strong attendance. This is our 74th annual meeting and we have demonstrated over three-quarters of a century a remarkable ability to adapt, adjust and rebound,he said.

Chairman Wagner’s cautiously optimistic assessment of the North American structural engineered wood products industry was also supported by the APA’s latest market forecast, which projects improvement in nearly all the industry’s major domestic market segments in 2012.

Mr Wagner, whose address centred on the state of the association, reviewed the organisation’s plans for “rebuilding our strength as an association as conditions allow.The priorities, he said, are maintaining a world-class certification programme that ensures member compliance with standards; protecting and growing wood product market share; strengthening the voice of the industry through APA membership expansion and strategic partnerships; and exercising fiscal responsibility and organizational effectiveness.

He noted that, despite the economic downturn, “We have managed to maintain or grow our market shares in virtually all of our major end-use markets and since 2009 have added 19 mills to the APA membership ranks, including 10 in the US and nine in Canada.

“That’s a remarkable statement of faith in the strategic direction and value proposition of APA during a period of extreme financial pressure on most wood product manufacturing companies and facilities,he said.

Speaking for the last time as APA chairman, Mr Wagner presented the membership with four challenges: to remain engaged in APA programmes and activities; leverage their collective strengths through industry coalitions; help achieve a 60% membership share of North American wood I-joist and laminated veneer lumber production (it currently stands at 43 and 50%, respectively); and support the WoodWorks programme, a broad-based industry campaign to increase wood product share of the highly important non-residential construction market.

Succeeding Mr Wagner as chairman for the next two years is Mary Jo Nyblad, plywood sales and marketing manager at Boise Cascade LLC, Boise, Idaho, while Tom Temple, who is vice president, wood products, at Potlatch Corporation, Spokane, Washington, succeeds her as vice-chair. Ms Nyblad has been an APA trustee for six years and, in addition to serving as vice-chair the last two years, has chaired the APA Marketing Advisory and Finance committees.

APA President Dennis Hardman presented a progress report on the Association’s market support and development activities. He noted, in connection with the residential construction market, that APA and the American Wood Council joined forces in early 2011 to form a Coalition for Fair Energy Codes (CFEC), whose mission is to protect wood product market share under the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC). He warned that the industry stands to lose 900 million square feet of structural wood panel wall sheathing demand if the latest energy code, pushed through by competitive product interests with the support of the US Department of Energy, is adopted in critical US climate zones.

He said CFEC, whose founding members include both APA member and non-member manufacturers, is working, first, to ensure that state and local jurisdictions don’t adopt the new code or at least modify it so as not to unfairly disadvantage qualified products; and second, to ensure that future code development processes are fair to all products, without inappropriate influence or unfair bias by US federal government agencies.

Mr Hardman next reported that WoodWorks, the industry programme to advance wood demand in the non-residential construction market, was completing its initial three-year campaign, with marked success in exceeding its goals in key target markets around the US. Based on that record, he said the programme would be extended into new market areas in the coming year.

International markets for North American structural wood panels were especially strong during the past year, Mr Hardman said. He reported that panel exports were on track to total approximately 1.2 billion square feet for 2011, the highest volume in 12 years. “Other engineered wood products are showing offshore strength as well,he said, “with an estimated annualised export value of close to US$40m.

“Our effort to influence industrial end-users continues to focus on providing information and product benefits that relate specifically to the unique needs of non-construction applications,Mr Hardman said.

In that connection, he cited, an APA online website that provides a wealth of industrial market product benefits and application information. He said traffic to the site exceeds 80,000 unique visits per year and that visitors interested in sourcing product from APA members is likely to approach nearly 10,000 by the end of 2011.

Mr Hardman’s market support and development presentation was supported in further detail, following the general session, by three round table break-out sessions and during the Marketing Advisory Committee meeting.

The round table sessions, designed to facilitate smaller group interaction and discussion, focused on how to access international markets, maximising value of APA’s website and product support help desk, as well as ongoing industry efforts to advance recognition of wood in the ‘green building’ arena.

The last-named session was led by Vicki Worden, coordinator of the Green Building Strategy Group (GBSG), a coalition of organisations, companies and government agencies working to facilitate increased coordination and communication of green building efforts. The group is divided into four core committees: research and technology transfer; codes and standards; policy and advocacy; and marketing communications.

Guest speakers at the Marketing Advisory Committee included Mike Ritter, assistant director of the US Forest Products Laboratory, who provided an update on cooperative industry research initiatives, and Kelly McCloskey, director of the WoodWorks programme described above, who spoke on that campaign’s specific goals and activities.

Awards were presented during the meeting to annual mill safety and health competition winners, industry suppliers and, posthumously, to Floyd Vike, recipient of the annual Bronson Lewis Award.

The safety awards were presented by vice-chair Mary Jo Nyblad during the Chairman’s Dinner on the last day of the meeting. LP of Nashville, Tennessee, and Canfor-LP OSB Limited Partnership of Fort St John, British Columbia, won Safest Company Awards in their respective categories, while Georgia-Pacific Wood Products’ Camden, Texas plywood mill earned the coveted Innovation in Safety award for developing and implementing a proactive safety initiative called STARS (Stop, Think and React Safely) card programme. STARS is a behaviour-based programme which promotes interaction among employees in an effort to correct hazardous practices and encourage safe behaviour.

A total of 25 mills, representing 10 APA member companies: Abitibi LP Engineered Wood, Inc; Anthony Forest Products Co; Anthony EACOM Inc; Calvert Company, Inc; Canfor-LP OSB Limited Partnership; Georgia-Pacific Wood Products LLC; LP; Norbord; Rosboro; and Stark Truss Company, Inc all earned awards in various categories of the annual competition.

A Safety and Health Workshop, the second of its kind in as many years, was also held on the day following the regular annual meeting.

Sponsored by the APA Safety and Health Advisory Committee, the programme featured several industry and government speakers on a number of mill safety and health topics.

Supplier of the Year Award winners included Ventek, Inc; Willamette Valley Company; Momentive Specialty Chemicals, Inc; and Adalis Corporation.

Sponsored by the Engineered Wood Technology Association (EWTA), APA’s related supplier organisation, the annual supplier awards are based on quality, service and delivery to APA member mills as determined by a vote of those mills’ managers.

Momentive Specialty Chemicals also won the Innovation of the Year award, which recognises a new technology or product that has been shown to provide a substantial financial benefit to users of the innovation. Momentive earned that award by vote of APA members for its Primax OSB surface resin.

The late Floyd Vike, who spent 35 years in the forest products industry and retired in 1997 from Willamette Industries as executive vice president of the company’s building materials group, was honoured with the annual Bronson Lewis award. The award recognises individuals for their leadership and outstanding contribution to the engineered wood products industry. Mr Vike was a long-time, active, member of the APA Board of Trustees and played a key role in extending APA’s product representation to a wide range of non-panel structural engineered wood products.

The award was presented to family members by Steve Kilgore, vice president of Roseburg Forest Products and a friend and colleague of Mr Vike.

As in past years, a key component of the meeting was the Info Fair supplier exhibition. Sponsored by the Engineered Wood Technology Association, the annual industry equipment, product and service showcase featured 53 exhibits and was well attended.

APA’s 2012 meeting is scheduled for November 10-12 on Amelia Island, Florida.

Apa market forecast sees steady improvement ahead

North American structural wood panel production (plywood and OSB) is expected to rise only about 3% in 2012, but then to grow by six to nine percent annually through 2016, according to APA’s latest market forecast.

The base case outlook, prepared and presented during the association’s annual meeting by APA Market Research Director Craig Adair, assumes the global economy will avoid a recession and that the US housing market has hit bottom and will slowly begin to revive. US housing starts (single-family and multi-family combined) are projected under the forecast to rise by nearly 6% in 2012, to 630,000 units, and to more than double, to 1.34 million units, by 2016.

Structural wood panel demand is forecast to rise in nearly all of North America’s domestic markets in 2012, including 3% in residential construction, 3% in the industrial sector, and 2% in repair and remodelling. Panel demand in the nonresidential construction market, meanwhile, is expected to remain about the same this year as in 2011.

Panel exports, which have risen dramatically over the past two years in response to weak domestic demand, are expected to continue to grow but at a much slower pace. Conversely, imports are expected to rise, as US and Canadian markets improve.

Improvements in demand for other North American engineered wood products are also forecast. Glulam production is expected to increase 3% in 2012, laminated veneer lumber 9%, and wood I-joists a substantial 26%.