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NWFA Expo to focus on service, smarts, sports

March 30/April 6, 2015; Volume 28/Number 20

By Nadia Ramlakhan

RamsDomeAttendees and exhibitors are expected to work hard and play harder when the National Wood Flooring Association (NWFA) celebrates its 30th anniversary with its annual Wood Flooring Expo, set for April 28-May 1 in St. Louis.

The decision to hold the event here was based on a number of elements, including the fact it is the birthplace of the NWFA. “We wanted to bring it home for the 30th anniversary,” said Michael Martin, president and CEO.

Martin said he wanted to take full advantage of the hosting town, incorporating sports into this year’s theme: “Play it Forward.” “We look at the whole meeting as an experience,” he explained. “From the time people land at the airport until the minute they leave, we want attendees to experience something like never before. We’ve gone out and found venues that they couldn’t go to on their own.”

As part of this “experience,” attendees will have a chance to visit both the Edward Jones Dome, home of the St. Louis Rams, and Busch Stadium, home of the St. Louis Cardinals, as well as multiple VIP areas for special events throughout the show.

In celebration of the association’s 30th anniversary, a “Night at the Ballpark” party will be held Tuesday, April 28, from 6:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. in a private suite at Busch Stadium during a St. Louis Cardinals baseball game.

This year’s theme is not only geared toward sports. In fact, another major component of the convention is its focus on service as a way to honor the organization’s founding fathers as well as a desire to give back to the hardwood flooring industry. “Looking back, our founding fathers wanted to pay it forward,” Martin said. “Their volunteer spirit was what launched the association.”

Martin said that having the Internet and other technological advancements available has created a new type of consumer—one who conducts online research and chooses to do business with a company based on the information she finds. He hopes by encouraging members to get involved in charity and community outreach programs at the show, they will be more likely to get involved in their own community causes.

“I hope everyone figures out their own place as far as how to make hardwood flooring a part of their communities through service,” he said. “Cause marketing is a huge initiative. It’s gone from, ‘This is my company and this is what I do,’ to the consumer going online first, reading what people say about you and looking at your ratings. People are picking who they want to do business with. This is very different from the past when it was just about products. We want to provide the tools for you to go back to your community and connect with potential customers.”

Actor Gary Sinise, known for his role in the movie “Forrest Gump” as Lt. Dan Taylor, will announce the official launch of NWFA’s partnership with the Gary Sinise Foundation, which provides smart homes for veterans, many of whom have lost limbs and require hard surface flooring to accommodate wheelchairs. Other opportunities to get involved nationally and locally include the Gateway PGA REACH Foundation, The Little Bit Foundation, NWFA Education & Research Foundation (NERF), Hardwood Federation and more.

Although there is tons of fun to be had at the show, education is still top-of-mind for Martin. “We can’t lose sight of our mission, which is to educate our members on the wood flooring industry. It’s always exciting to see people come together and learn their trade better and learn to how run their businesses better.”

Kicking off the general session will be keynote speaker Bill Courtney, owner and CEO of Classic American Hardwoods. Courtney, author of the book “Against the Grain,” inspired the Oscar-winning movie “Undefeated,” which is based on his volunteer coaching for a local high school football team. His discussion on business practices and commitment to giving back will jumpstart the educational sessions.

New this year is a fifth learning track, Collaboration, which is geared toward retailers and designed to encourage networking and sharing of ideas through roundtables. The other four learning tracks are Management, Technical Skills, Architecture/Design and Marketing/Sales, which will heavily emphasize online marketing and social media strategies.

Named one of the top 50 fastest-growing shows for the third consecutive year, the NWFA Wood Flooring Expo will deliver more than 420 booths of which 70 are new exhibitors. The latest trends in wood—including wide planks, oil-based finishes and gray tones—will be showcased Wednesday, April 29 from noon to 5:30 p.m. and Thursday, April 30 from noon to 5:30 p.m. inside the Edward Jones Dome.

The new hours reflect a growing demand for more time to walk the show floor. As part of its mission, NWFA has also increased the amount of hours allotted for training and will feature a second demo theater on the show floor. One stage will have manufacturers showing off their products and technology while the other will have regional instructors holding specific demos.