The show had a new sponsor, VNU Expositions Inc, a Dutch-owned group based in Coppell, Texas. It had no registration total at press time, but marketing manager Kimberly Wise said registration was "off a little" from last year – the 2000 total "approached 10,000". Show director Sue Palmer joined Portland Mayor Vera Katz in welcoming guests to the giant show and conference. Mayor Katz commented on the facility’s current two-year expansion project that will nearly double the exhibit space to 255,000ft² and provide 55,000ft² of meeting space, and much-needed parking.
The Wood Tech show was the centre’s first event and is still the largest in its 10-year history. Potential exhibitors have been turned away for lack of space. In this year’s edition there were just under 400 exhibitors from A to Z – A-1 Master Crane & Hoist Service to Ziegelmeyer Mfg Inc. Most of them targeted sawmills, but among exhibits in the panel field, there seemed to be a trend towards more sophisticated scanning, grading, and measuring. E-business was prominent in the programme and in conversations, together with marketing sites. Nose diving dot-coms seem to have had little effect on the forest industry and its new marketing techniques.
Oregon State Senator Veral Tarno keynoted the session by ticking off government regulations that have shackled the forest industry. "Agencies are dictating how we use our natural resources," he said. "Rural Oregon is tied up by regulations. I’m so glad we have a new president and the appointments he’s made."He declared: "It’s time we found the middle of the road in using our natural resources." He called for removing the spotted owl from the federal endangered species list, saying: "I’m an environmentalist, but when it comes to a choice of feeding families I draw the line." He warned that the present energy crisis could spread into Oregon and Washington. "The equipment I saw in these showrooms is dependent on energy," he concluded.
Twenty-nine speakers addressed conference attendees in separate, intimate sessions, each drawing perhaps a dozen people. Consultant David E Tooch, Durham, New Hampshire, advised that the process of marketing is never ending, that successful marketers are first in to new products, and first out if they sense the market is about to drop. On picking the winners he said: "You can fail 90% of the time and still make a fortune. One good market totally overshadows the other 20 that didn’t work." Mr Tooch went on: "The purpose of marketing is to translate knowledge into action; to convert the knowledge into a marketing programme that delivers a message, and a group of products and services that meet the needs and wants of your target market population groups. "It is the marketer’s job to convert knowledge into action," he said, quoting such examples as finger-jointing, panels, new building architecture, and speciality mouldings.
Richard M Canipe, maintenance management consultant, Raleigh, North Carolina, advised mill management: "To achieve results-oriented maintenance, companies must realise that production is a partnership among operations, maintenance and engineering. The traditional view is that maintenance is a service organisation; operations is the internal customer of maintenance; and engineering is an isolated ‘happy island’." Mario R Angel, programme manager, World Forest Institute, Portland, Oregon said South America is one of the world’s emerging forestry regions with Chile and Brazil developing an important forest industry over the past 25 years. Other countries on that continent are following. Companies from other countries have seen this as an opportunity to expand their timberland resources and establish short rotation commercial forests.
Some countries without a traditional forestry industry, such as Uruguay and Argentina, have established large commercial plantations and, consequently, are switching from being wood importers to wood exporters. Mr Angel said the key to success for South American countries has been high forestry growth rates for hardwoods and softwoods, good weather and soil conditions, low labour costs and government incentives for afforestation and forestry projects – the last has been very important. Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Peru and Colombia all have laws that facilitate investment in afforestation projects. With 869 million ha of native forest, South America is the largest native forestry region in the world. However, the 160 million ha available for harvest is much less than the 527 million ha available in Russia and 303 million ha in North America.
Chile and Brazil’s plantations go back more than 30 years. Planted eucalyptus for pulp can be harvested at seven years. In Chile, the pulp rotation for radiata pine is 15 years and saw timber rotation 25 years. Mr Angel declared: "Everyone wants to keep the rain forest in Brazil. It has sentimental value and it is very difficult to work there." He said it was remarkable that fuel is still the leading product from the natural forest in most countries. Only the larger companies have recently started producing value-added products from commercial plantations. Mr Angel concluded: "There are about nine million ha of commercial plantations in South America. The native forest is one of the richest in the world with a great variety of species and commercial values. However, it is necessary to invest in training, infrastructure, policies, forest management, wood product production and services."
Dr Richard Vlosky, associate professor of forest products marketing, Louisiana State University, had some succinct advice for getting started in e-business in the forest products industry:
 * Think strategically
 * Embrace fundamental changes
 * Secure top management support
 * Get educated
 * Choose technological partners carefully
 * Sell concepts to suppliers and customers
 * Just do it
The following are random thoughts from his freewheeling session: Trust is the glue that holds relationships together. Don’t wait for it to happen. The industry historically has been reactive. Dinosaur companies are dying while progressive companies are surviving. Buy and sell wood, that’s what we do. Originally, a website cost US$250,000. Now it’s around US$15,000. Thomas J Westbrook, president and CEO of World Wide Wood Network Ltd, Yelm, Washington is understandably enthusiastic about third party exchanges in buying and selling wood. He runs one. The exchanges efficiently connect buyers and sellers through the internet. Mr Westbrook said: "An electronic exchange is just another market channel to the traditional market channels we have dealt with in the past. As long as the exchange is only positioned to facilitate business, then it can be a valuable tool. If the purpose of the exchange is to get between you and your trading partners, then it ceases to be a tool and becomes an impediment."
He concluded: "The right third party exchange can deliver the promise of the internet. Get your house in order. It’s not enough to be a match-maker. Industry expertise is a must. Frederick D Kurpiel, president of Imeas Inc, Peachtree City, Georgia said that the forest industry’s challenge is "to be able to appease an ever more demanding consumer in an ever increasing environmentally conscious and litigious marketplace." He said product profitability is tied to yield of the highest cost component of the finished product – the raw material. "Where solid wood lumber yield was 40% to 45% and plywood was 60% to 65%, composite panels, engineered lumber and inorganic panels typically yield more than 90%.Dr Kurpiel said different and/or lower quality raw material requires a combination of several major processing factors: resin speed, cycle times, steam and continuous pressing, wider master panels and improved sanding/finishing/overlaying of the substrate to add value to the finished product. He said his own sanding industry has kept up with these challenges with speeds approaching 90m/minute with no belt chatter or flutter. The US-Canada lumber trade controversy instigated a presentation by Jon Anderson, Eugene, Oregon, publisher of the authoritative Random Lengths newsletter. The Softwood Lumber Agreement between the two nations expired on April 1 and leaders on both sides are earnestly trying to do something about it.
US producers claim that Canadian producers, who log mainly government timber, are subsidised by low government stumpage rates. Canadians now control nearly one third of the lucrative US$10bn lumber market. The bulk of this production is from heavy producers in British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario and Quebec. Other provinces are exempt from the agreement and production doubled there while the agreement has been in force. With cutbacks on federal timber sales, the US industry is logging mainly privately owned timber. British Columbia bore the brunt of the agreement along with the collapse of overseas lumber trade. Under the Softwood Lumber agreement, Canadian exports to the US were limited and exports above that limit were heavily taxed. The US industry is threatening anti-dumping and subsidy charges and asking for penalty duties on Canadian lumber.