NAWLA Traders Market 2023: A Snapshot of the Wood Products Industry

The North American Lumber Wholesale Association (NAWLA) Traders Market serves as the crossroads for industry veterans and emerging talents within the wood products industry. NAWLA encompasses a wide range of products, from timbers to poly bags, reloads, and warehouses. In November, Freres participated in this event, which took place in Columbus, Ohio.

This year’s NAWLA Traders Market was the largest ever, boasting more than 1,300 vendors and attendees. It provided unparalleled opportunities to connect with industry leaders, both buyers and suppliers alike. At the heart of this event lay a unique combination of educational sessions and networking opportunities—no other lumber trade show provides all of this under one roof. It was a fantastic opportunity for us to nurture existing relationships and forge new ones with our valued customers.


A Dynamic Event Schedule

Our week at the NAWLA Traders Market was packed with activities and interactions. On Wednesday, we juggled a board meeting, committee meetings, booth setup, and morning meetings with our customers. The day concluded with a well-attended reception, generously sponsored by Boise Cascade. After these events, we continued building connections over dinner.

Thursday brought an engaging “Birds of a Feather” gathering, where participants shared common interests. The discussions spanned a wide array of topics, including first-time NAWLA Traders Market attendees, industry essentials, leadership and mentoring, customer relationships, and sustainability.

Educational sessions led by Ken Simonson, Chief Economist for the Associated General Contractors of America, were well attended. With more than 40 years of experience, Ken’s insights into the economy and its implications for construction and related industries were highly valued. His sessions shed light on economic trends and their impact on the industry.


A luncheon featured keynote speaker Ashley Fox, a respected NFL journalist known for her trailblazing career. With 24 years of experience, including seven as a lead NFL reporter and analyst for ESPN, Ashley offered a unique perspective on the world of sports media. Her unwavering professionalism and trustworthiness have earned her the respect of athletes, coaches, team executives, and league commissioners.

The tradeshow on Thursday was open all afternoon, followed by another Networking Reception on the Show Floor, sponsored by Tri-State Forest Products. This was where we learned that the Writers’ Guild of America strike had actually slowed down the wood business in Southern California, due to no sets being built. Both of these events paved the way for more meaningful dinners with our customers.

We took the opportunity to educate our customers about our past and current projects, including the oWow 19-story building and the Portland International Airport 9-acre roof. We shared our recent certification by the APA with several new grades of Structural Composite Lumber, which can augment materials that are traditionally used but that are more difficult to procure (or exceedingly expensive). We are now certified for 2.1E and 1.9E material thicknesses up to 24.5” and lengths up to 48’. In the coming months, we will be able to produce material in 1.5” laminations which can more closely match dimensional timber dimensions.

We can also create Mass Ply Panels at the same scale as timber sizes, 4×4 to 4×48, 6×6 to 6×48, 8×8 to 8×48, 10×10 to 10×48 – all up to 48 feet long. We can create posts as large as 24×24 up to 24×48, and eventually up to 60 feet long. These posts and beams are all 8% moisture content throughout the entire piece making them more stable, with no checking or shrinkage after installation, and they retain carbon unlike concrete or steel. We are proud to create this large format material out of small logs, and a relatively knot-free appearance is available. The company now operates six plants, including a small log veneer plant, large log veneer plant, veneer drying facility, studmill, plywood plant and cogeneration facility.


Building Strong Connections

Friday began with more customer meetings in the morning before the trade show opened at 8 a.m. These interactions with our distribution customers provided valuable insights. They were actively seeking new products to bring to the market, reflecting a positive outlook for business growth in the coming year.

In summary, the consensus among participants was optimistic about the prospects of the industry. The NAWLA Traders Market served as a dynamic platform to exchange knowledge, strengthen relationships, and explore opportunities for the future. As we bid farewell to this year’s event, we look forward to the promise of an even brighter year ahead.


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