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AWFS: a global support network: the Association of Woodworking & Furnishings Suppliers puts a strong emphasis on its trade show, education initiatives and policy lobbying efforts.

Has hundreds of diverse national and international members. Is owner of one of the largest North American woodworking shows. Provides strong legislative advocacy for industry issues.

These are busy times for the Association of Woodworking & Furnishings Suppliers[R], an organization that traces its roots back to 1911, as the Suppliers Chapter of the California Furniture Manufacturers Assn. It was not until 1979 that the AWFS was officially incorporated as a separate organization to "represent the interests of companies and individuals who supply the home and institutional furnishings manufacturing industries."

Today, AWFS[R] has evolved from a regional institution into a global organization with 350 corporate members, focused on improving the marketplace. AWFS' mission is: To provide programs and services that benefit its members and promote a growing, financially sound woodworking and furnishings industry.

The three primary focuses of the AWFS are:

* Strengthening the value of the AWFS[R] Fair for both exhibitors and attendees.

* Strengthening and developing industry education.

* Building a cohesive, industry-wide coalition to create an effective voice on public policy issues affecting the industry.

"A decade ago, our focus was primarily on Southern California regional events that provided opportunities for local sales reps to socialize with their local customers. These included two local golf tournaments a year and a summer social event," says Dale Silverman, AWFS executive director. "We also had a small, but active fabric group for which we organized two local fabric shows each year. Our public policy focus was only on California issues (which we believed then and still believe are vital as the Fed usually follows in California's footsteps).

"However, in an era of mergers and acquisitions, our membership quite rapidly moved from the vast majority based in California to one where the majority of members main location was elsewhere in the U.S., and about 5 percent with no U.S. location," she added.

"Our board made a conscious decision many years ago to expand our board and association to a national scope," says Barry Howerton, AWFS president. "For many years, most of our board members and volunteers were from local member companies. We now have board and committee members from across the country. This has been very valuable in getting new outlooks and perspectives on issues and the industry.

"AWFS is also one of the most diverse associations in its membership," Howerton adds. "We have companies throughout the woodworking and furniture supply chain. We have moved to strive and keep a balance on our board to reflect this. The result of all of these changes has been to allow the board to take longer-term views and set goals based on these. We tend to look at the 'bigger picture' and have a great staff that helps us move toward these goals that the association sets." In looking to the future, the AWFS Board of Directors has set the following goals for the association:

* To change the perception of the AWFS Fair from a "very large regional show" to that of a "top national and international industry event."

* To develop new services that would serve the needs of national members, primarily in the area of industry education.

* To help strengthen "the cohesiveness of an industry that is filled with a myriad of segments, each served by one or more associations."


AWFS has already seen the results of some of its initiatives. For example, this year's AWFS Fair is the largest in its history, with a 20 percent growth in exhibit space and in the number of exhibitors. No longer considered a "regional event," the Vegas Fair boasts attendees from 31 countries. (See "AWFS fair gains international stature with move to Vegas.)

According to Silverman, additional actions taken by AWFS to forward its goals include:

* Joining with the Woodworking Machinery Industry Assn. and the Wood Machinery Manufacturers of America as a sponsor of the Woodworking Industry Conference (WIC).

* Partnering with WMMA in the International

Buyer Program (IBP).

* Joining political coalitions to work on issues manufacturing and distribution affecting members.

* Promotion and support of WoodLINKS USA. (See "Education a priority for AWFS".)

* The development of an online suppliers directory.

"We have a very talented, cohesive and dedicated board that is not afraid of change and setting lofty goals," Howerton says. "We also have a staff that can move the association toward those goals in an effective way that makes us look good.

"I am also excited about our association continuing to look for ways to find synergies with other associations and industries to give us more of an impact on many items. It can be exciting when you see what can be done when several associations work together on a common issue. I have been very fortunate to be a part of the association during these exciting times and appreciate the other volunteers that came before us and set the standard that we try to follow," Howerton adds.

2005 AWFS Board and Staff

Since its inception in 1911 as the Suppliers Chapter of the California Furniture Manufacturers Assn., the Association of Woodworking & Furnishings Suppliers[R] has evolved from a regional organization to one of international scope. The goals of the AWFS[R] are set by the Board of Directors, which is comprised of a cross-section of the association's diverse membership.

Officers on the current board are: Barry Howerton, Leggett & Platt, president: Skip Hem, Royal Plywood Co., vice president: Joan Kemp, JK Enterprises, secretary/treasurer: and Tom Orlando, CTD Machines, immediate past president.

The II directors are: Kevin Bedell, Foamex: Steve Byers, Louis & Co.; Wade Gregory. SierraPine Ltd.; Larry Hitchie, Weinig Group; Mary Ann Lamascus, Atlas Spring Mfg.; Phillip Martin Hafele America Co.; Jeff Oliverson, OMGA Inc.; ion Sanchez, Hanes Industries: Ase Stornetta, Ritter Mfg.; Archie Thompson, Daubert Chemical Co.; and Tony Varda. Cefla Finishing America.

Working in conjunction with the board of directors is an 11-person staff charged with running the day-to-day operations. They include: Dale Silverman, CAE, SPHR executive director; Angelo Gangone. AWFS Fair director; Bruce Valentine. communications director; Rick Calvert, AWFS Fair sales manager; Nancy Fister, education and conference director; Nith Sisombath trade show operations manager; Nancy Neely. financial services; Susan Biris. meetings and Young Furniture Associates coordinator; Josie Hernandez, membership services coordinator; Angela Hernandez, administrative assistant; and Lamont Peoples, administrative assistant.

For more information on the association, call (800) 946-2937 or visit

Membership Classifications

The Association of Woodworking 6 Furnishings Suppliers[R] is a global organization boasting 350 corporate members, There are three classes of membership in the association: regular member, associate member and cooperating association. A brief description of each is provided below.


The AWFS[R] classifies a regular member as any company that supplies products to the woodworking and furnishings manufacturing industry, and whose principal business is not finished goods,


An associate member is any company that supplies supportive or ancillary services to regular members of the association.


A cooperating association member is any other wood and/or furnishings related non-profit trade association.

AWFS Benefits Services

As a benefit to its members, the Association of Woodworking & Furnishings Suppliers[R] provides a package of discount services. AWFS[R] partnered with California Credit Managers Assn. (CCMA) to enable smaller companies to take advantage of many financial services, such as credit checks and collections. AWFS also formed alliances with other organizations, including the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors (NAW). to make group purchasing discounts available for a variety of services. These include discounted rates for insurance, credit card processing and delivery services.

To further aid businesses, members receive quarterly financial forecasts produced by RISI. They are also given "public policy representation and alerts about new regulations/laws while they are in development' in order for companies to respond directly to their legislators and other government entities." says Dale Silverman, AWFS executive director.

Other member benefits include: "discounts on exhibit space [at the AWFS Fair]. show advertising, and a variety of other services designed to make the member's company stand out and be noticed. Also. all members receive priority placement over any non-member during our priority space assignment period," Silverman adds.


The AWFS produces a quarterly newsletter, "The Suppliers' Edge." which is distributed to more than 1,100 industry executives. The newsletter features profiles of member companies, legislative updates, environmental updates, legal updates, industry educational news, as well as a calendar of events.

Back issues of the newsletter are available online at Between issues, e-mail alerts are sent to members regarding time-sensitive issues.

Web Updates


The AWFS Web site, offers access to many of the association's resources. Included is a member directory, technical news bulletins and press releases, industry calendar of events and other association information. Since its inception in mid-1998, it has been viewed by tens of thousands of people both nationally and worldwide.


The AWFS Fair Web site,, offers information to both exhibitors and attendees in a variety of languages. Also featured is information for: exhibitors; travel and housing; online registration services; the College of Woodworking Knowledge program and the Student Design Contest.


AWFS SupplierFinder,, is an online products and services locator for the woodworking and furnishings industries. A searchable database, it includes everything from fabrics to hardware to machinery, and is open to any supplier to the woodworking and furnishings industries, regardless of membership. Users can access e-mail addresses or hyperlink to individual company Web sites. There is no charge to be listed or to use the directory.
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Publication:Wood & Wood Products
Date:Jul 1, 2005
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