Hardwood Flooring

Focused on the Industry’s Future

We got the band back together. Well, not really, but that is what it felt like this past July at the 2021 NWFA Wood Flooring Expo in Orlando for the Emerging Leaders Network and Council. The Emerging Leaders Network was founded in 2017 as a way for young professionals in all channels of the wood flooring supply chain to network and gain valuable insight as the next generation of leaders within the industry.

The first Emerging Leaders Network event was held at the 2017 NWFA Expo in Phoenix and started mainly as a social event. In 2018, the Emerging Leaders Council (ELC) for this new network was formed, and one of the first goals was to have a close working relationship with the NWFA Board of Directors. In 2019, the NWFA Board of Directors set up a one-on-one mentoring program for each ELC member.

The ELC also set the directive that in addition to the Emerging Leaders Networking event at each Expo, the group would engage with a local city high school and or vocational school to highlight career paths in the trades. In 2020, the ELC secured Wisconsin Heights High School to bring students to the 2020 Expo. The ELC planned on hosting the students in a town hall discussion, demonstrating installation practices, and touring the Expo trade show floor.

While this event did not happen in person due to COVID-19,, the ELC did host the students in a virtual town hall discussion where members shared their career paths in the wood flooring industry and allowed the students to ask questions.


The Emerging Leaders reception during the 2021 NWFA Expo in Orlando, Florida. Photo courtesy of NWFA.

While the 2021 Expo was held as an in-person event in Orlando, due to the time of year (July), the ELC was unable to host a local high school at the event. However, the 2021 Expo did allow the opportunity for the ELC to meet in person for the first time since 2019. During this meeting, council members all agreed that the original goal that was set forth for the 2020 Milwaukee Expo needed to be fulfilled.

The 2022 Expo in Tampa will bring the ELC and Emerging Leaders Network together once again. The ELC currently is seeking local Tampa area high schools interested in attending and plans to bring the agenda to Milwaukee for 2023. The ELC looks forward to the chance to host the first in-person event for local high schools and trade schools and give perspective on potential career paths within the wood flooring industry.

NWFA Wood Studies Scholarship Highlight

Emma Spencer
Chagrin Falls, Ohio

The NWFA Education & Research Foundation (NERF) Wood Studies Scholarship promotes the post-secondary study of forestry and forestry-related sciences. Each spring, this nonrenewable scholarship for $1,000 is awarded to one current high school senior who will study forestry in an effort to advance and improve forestry practices for generations to come.

This year’s scholarship recipient, Emma Spencer, graduated in June 2021 from Hathaway Brown School in Ohio. She is attending American University in Washington, D.C., with a major in Environmental Science.

“Environmental studies will give me the foundation I need to actively make a difference and make meaningful change to push toward a greener future,” says Spencer. “With a degree in environmental studies, I know I can gain the knowledge, skills, and experience I need to become a voice of change.”

NERF was established to provide industry research and educate future generations of wood flooring professionals. Thanks to the generosity of its members, NWFA has conducted such research as the Life Cycle Analysis of Wood Flooring and awarded more than $100,000 in scholarships since its creation.

The 2021 meeting also brought the news that Renee Tester of QEP Co. Inc. would take over as chair of the ELC in 2022. “It has been an honor to work under Josh’s guidance and leadership during his time as committee chair. I am thrilled to take on this new challenge and look forward to guiding such a distinguished group of peers to achieve our goals and initiatives,” shares Tester.

It has been a privilege to serve as the first chair of the ELC. The talent on the council and the entire Emerging Leader Network provides a great glimpse of the leadership to come in the wood flooring industry. Renee moving into the role is an excellent fit as she has been part of the ELC since its inception and has provided valuable insight for building the group’s foundation.

I look forward to seeing where the group will go into the future and encourage all who are interested to reach out to the NWFA for further information. You can contact Stephanie Owen, NWFA Staff Liaison for the Emerging Leaders Network, at [email protected]

Josh Neuberger is the former chair of the Emerging Leaders Council and marketing director for Uzin Utz North America Inc. He can be reached at [email protected]

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