Reasons for Optimism Abound

From the BPD and Merchant Magazines e-Weekly Newsletter - March 27, 2020


As the North American Wholesale Lumber Association’s (NAWLA) 2020 Chair, I’ve unexpectedly been tasked with leading our 127-year-old organization through some interesting times this year.

As I’ve already shared with our members, I can understand why some of my colleagues are feeling concerned or overwhelmed by the negative news right now. With an industry that has weathered world wars, the Great Depression, recessions and pandemics in the past, I have the utmost confidence that we will ultimately come through the current situation as well.

By saying this, I mean in no way to diminish the tangible impacts you and your employees may be feeling right now. I know that some of your companies may be temporarily slowing or halting operations or having to make some tough staffing decisions in the short term. I have great sympathy for anyone who has experienced interruptions to business or wages, or is dealing with health issues, as a result of the coronavirus.

But I’m also seeing reasons to feel hopeful about the recovery, which I anticipate to be soon forthcoming, and know that we are likely to feel much less strain than some other industries between then and now.

Here are just a few of those reasons for optimism:

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has deemed the “Workers who support the manufacture and distribution of forest products, including, but not limited to timber, paper, and other wood products” as essential. By doing so, they are helping to inform the decisions of local and state authorities as they enact “shelter in place” orders in a way that allows us to produce materials that are currently or will soon be in high demand, such as tissues and towels. Manufacturers and wholesalers are both expected to benefit from their role in providing these essential products and services.

Some U.S. states have responded to these recommendations by recognizing our work as essential. While we all appreciate the need to mitigate risk and the spread of COVID-19, and respect the decision of city and state leaders to enact orders limiting activity outside of the home, I am pleased to see that those same states realize that rapid economic recovery will only be possible if building material suppliers continue to operate during this time. In New York, Illinois and Maine, just to name a few, NAWLA members can continue to operate at full capacity thanks to this recognition. I know efforts are underway for our industry to receive similar recognition in Canada and will continue to monitor and share updates as I come across them on that matter.

The financial markets across the globe are experiencing less volatility this week with talk of economic stimulus activity in not just the U.S., but also South Korea and Germany, as well as corporate measures to support growth. I believe that as people see that companies can operate successfully with remote workforces, and see good news from the health care sector with regard to vaccine development, treatment advances, the significant and increasing number of those who have recovered from COVID-19 at this point, and the like, the panicked reactions will cease as well.

I’m sure there are plenty more positive indicators for our industry out there, and encourage you all to find and share them with each other every chance you get. And be sure to monitor NAWLA’s website for webinars, legislative updates and similar information to help inform your business during these challenging times.

I also look forward to seeing you in person later this year at NAWLA’s upcoming events, so we can share lessons learned and successes we’re starting to see as well.

Until then, be well!

Tom Le Vere

President | Shareholder, Weekes Forest Products

2020 NAWLA Chair

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