Bringing businesses together through a buy local group or trade organization can be fickle work. After all, small businesses that share the same industry must ultimately compete against each other, and against the well-known big-box stores, for a share of their local or regional market. For members of the Northeastern Retail Lumber Association (NRLA), though, the shared goal of promoting the industry is often more important than competition.
“After over 20 years in this industry, I’m still amazed with how fiercely the independents will compete in the marketplace, but at the same time, gladly and passionately work together on common issues for the good of the marketplace,” says Steve Ciccone, regional director for NRLA. “It’s a testament to the great people in our industry and to NRLA for fostering this type of family-like environment since 1894.”
For more than 120 years, NRLA has united independently owned lumberyards throughout the northeast, spanning New York, New Jersey and New England. Today, NRLA boasts some 1,150 members. To those members, NRLA provides leadership and resources in areas like advocacy, consumer education and business services.
“Right now, our industry is being forced by big, national labor movements,” Ciccone says. “NRLA is working diligently to ease the burden of new initiatives, such as the overtime rule, minimum wage increases and paid family leave, that affect our members in a big way.”
In addition to NRLA’s own advocacy efforts, the group provides lumberyards with the resources they need to advocate on their own behalf. NRLA encourages its members to host legislators for a tour of their facilities and to contact legislators on a variety of issues.
In a way, NRLA’s long history is reflective of its members. Just as NRLA provides leadership in the lumber industry, independent lumber yards have provided leadership on a community level for generations.
“The independent lumber yards have been around for decades – even centuries – and long before the big-box stores,” says Ciccone. “The independent business’ employees won’t just tell you where a product is, but they’ll also tell you how to complete your project and what products you will need for the whole project.”
One of the most obvious symbols of NRLA’s history is its flagship annual event, the Lumber and Building Material (LBM) Expo. LBM Expo is the largest regional event in the lumber industry, and it has been held every year since 1894. Registration for the 2017 event, which will take place Feb. 15-17 in Providence, Rhode Island, is now open.
For NRLA, bringing independent lumberyards together isn’t about competition – it’s about strengthening the entire industry.
“The independents do a great job at what they do – servicing the needs of builders, remodelers and DIY’ers. We take care of the common needs, such as keeping members abreast of industry trends, education and regulatory compliance,” Ciccone says. “We are the common bond to help keep the industry strong. Collectively, we are better as an industry.”
For more information on NRLA, visit www.nrla.org.