It’s all about getting together.

It’s all about getting together. 3rd Networking meeting in Walkerton is biggest yet!

The sunny early winter weather contributed to a great turnout for the 3rd Networking meeting of the Bluewater Wood Alliance on December 7. The crowd of 55 people gathered at the Walkerton Clean Water Centre to learn the latest about finishes, finishing equipment and training for sprayers.

Co-manager, Sepp Gmeiner, opened up the meeting with an update on the progress shown by the BWA since the last meeting in September. The website continues to carry the latest information on activities of the BWA, but now there is something new.

The “members only” section of is now up and running. Sections include a list of the members and contact information for key personnel that is available for all members and associate members. In addition, there is a section called “Being Discussed Now” which gives members an opportunity to post questions or comments for discussion among all the members and associate members. Interesting questions have already been asked about sourcing bed frame hardware and benchmarking breakout operations.

The “members only” section is also where the projects are being carried out, with members who are involved able to share information and have real time online discussions. The project section is just starting to get active, with six projects on the go.

Wood Manufacturing Council representative, Stephen Kennedy, was next up with a presentation on the Going Global Workshops that will be held in the Hanover area early in 2012. This program prepares manufacturers for the nuts and bolts of exporting products out of the country. BWA members will get a special discount on rates. People who are interested in finding out more about the workshops should contact [email protected] or watch this website for updates.

The main portion of the meeting followed with presentations by a number of stain and lacquer companies, as well as one of the major spraying equipment manufacturers.

John Reis and Jeff Snider, of Akzo Nobel /Chemcraft, touched on the “ Journey from VOC to Water-based Finishing”.     Lance Trowhill, M.L. Campbell Product Manager for McFadden’s Hardwood & Hardware, talked about the Greenguard program and how it relates to water-base coatings. Sherwin Williams, which recently bought European coatings manufacturer Becker Acroma, was represented by Nigel Manson and Nicholas Markus. They brought us up-to-date on how advances by European coatings manufacturers have brought the water-based finishes to a higher quality, increasing the acceptance of these finishes over on this side of the Atlantic.

Sansin Corporation’s James Simpson and Michael Labodzinski spoke on the topic of “Running a cleaner, greener shop” and Stephen de Santos and colleague Jim McGregor of Performance Abrasives and Coatings wrapped up the water-based finishing presentations.

Of course, you can’t talk about new coatings without a discussion of what is new in delivery systems for the latest in finishing technology. S.T. Rajan, of Exel North America brought our group up to speed on two component mixing systems and Air-Mix spraying.

The highlight of the afternoon was a demonstration by Dennis Harlock and Mark Bramer of Conestoga College. They brought the “Virtual Spraying/Finishing Training Program” up to Walkerton for all to try. Some of the best laughs of the day were at the expense of “seasoned finishers” and company presidents who thought they were pretty good with a spray gun – until they tried to spray the pieces projected on the screen. The program calculates the efficiency and coverage of the spraying that is done with a real spray gun, but without any actual coatings flying. It just goes to show how valuable proper training can be to even the most seasoned of our finishers.

During the afternoon, there was plenty of opportunity for manufacturing members and supplier members to break off into small groups to discuss needs and catch up on the latest industry news. A few stalwarts repaired to the local watering hole to continue the discussions into the dinner hour.

The day was a great success and a number of attendees indicated that they would be sending in their membership forms and cheques to be able to take advantage of the benefits of full membership. Anyone wanting information on membership can email [email protected].

Read Woodworking magazine’s report –

Mike Landman takes a turn at the virtual sprayer.

Bluewater Wood Alliance featured at Ontario West Municipal Conference in London.

Bluewater Wood Alliance Featured at Ontario West Municipal Conference in London.

Each year, the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing hosts the Ontario West Municipal Conference, where politicians and bureaucrats from cities and towns across Western Ontario are educated and informed on policy and process.  This year’s conference, held at the London Convention Centre on November 25th, was themed “Foundations for the Future:  Staying on Track”.  The keynote speaker of the day was Prof. Avi Friedman, from McGill University, who spoke on “Going Green:  Sustainable Cities for the 21st Century.”

A series of concurrent sessions were also held, one of which featured the Bluewater Wood Alliance.  Adam Hofmann and Blair Tullis presented  the history, present structure and future plans of the BWA to an interested audience of municipal officials.  The talk spent a good deal of time on the relationship between the levels of government and the industry, a key to the success of clustering projects.

The talk was well-received and questions came from the floor from people wanting to know how clustering could work for industries in their area, including one about clustering the Pelee Island wineries to strengthen their position for marketing at home and abroad.

This type of outreach by the Bluewater Wood Alliance shows our leadership position in the development of the successful clustering concept in Ontario.

BWA reaches out to educators in Meeting on November 18.

BWA reaches out to the Bluewater District School Board to promote WoodLINKS.

Members of the Bluewater Wood Alliance hosted a group of tech teachers from the Bluewater District School Board on November 18 to give them an idea of what students might expect to see if they choose careers in the wood products manufacturing industry.

The tour started out at Speke Klein Inc. in Durham, where owners Robin Speke and Thomas Klein gave the teachers a tour of the high tech manufacturing plant and described their business, which includes customers in both Canada and the United States.  Speke Klein manufactures custom furniture and millwork, often working directly with architects and designers to create one-of-a-kind solutions.  Although the company has only five employees, it uses the state-of-the-art in machinery and software to manufacture the products.

The second stop on the tour was West Bros. Furniture in Hanover, a company known across North America for producing high quality solid wood furniture.  Owner Paul West took the teachers around his high production plant, where the latest in manufacturing technology is used to produce a variety of home furnishings, from bedroom and dining room suites to furniture for the hospitality industry.

The final stop on the tour was at the Walkerton Clean Water Centre, where Richard Lipman gave the teachers a presentation on the WoodLINKS program, a school-to-work certificate program that gives students a basic education in working safely in the wood products manufacturing industry.  The BWA supports WoodLINKS and the idea of getting young people in the Grey and Bruce region excited about the careers that are available to them in the companies of the Alliance.  Adam Hofmann, president of Bogdon & Gross Furniture, spoke to the teachers, as did his Human Resources Manager, Laurelyn Nielsen.

It is hoped that this kind of outreach by the BWA will build a successful relationship with the education system in the area to promote cooperation in education for the industry.  With an aging workforce in many of the companies, it is of primary importance to plan for the future of the industry by education today’s students for fulfilling careers in the Bluewater Wood Alliance companies.

WMS in Toronto.

Bluewater promotes membership at WMS show in Toronto.

The Bluewater Wood Alliance attended its second show in a month, participating in the Woodworking Machinery and Supply Fair in Toronto.  The show was held between October 27-29 at the Direct Energy Centre, which is part of the Canadian National Exhibition grounds.

Over the three days, there were many face-to-face conversations with visitors from around the country, who showed a great deal of interest in what the Alliance is doing. As a matter of fact, a couple of visitors from the Atlantic provinces wanted to know if the Alliance would help them to form a similar cluster organization in their area.  More membership interest came from both wood products manufacturers from south-western Ontario and from potential supplier members.

This is an ideal forum in which to promote the Alliance, as well as a good place to learn about what is happening in machinery, tooling and supply innovations for the manufacture of our products.

Our thanks to the organizers of the show, Vance Communications, for their support of the Bluewater Wood Alliance.

Bluewater Shows at Green Build in Toronto – October 4 – 6, 2011

The Bluewater Wood Alliance took part in the Green Build Show ( in Toronto the week of October 3.

The Bluewater Wood Alliance exhibited at the Green Build Show ( in Toronto’s Convention Centre during the week of October 3. As part of the Ontario Wood display, member companies’ marketing staff were there to help promote the products of the Alliance to buyers and specifiers from around the world. One of the “green” products being promoted by members was a line of solid wood furniture manufactured from logs brought up from the bottoms of lakes and rivers around Ontario.  These old growth logs have been changed by the years under water, creating different colours and tightening grain patterns. For more information, call 1-866-428-0290 or email .

2nd Networking Meeting a Great Success.

Forty people turned up at the Walkerton Clean Water Centre on September 29th for the 2nd Networking Meeting of the Bluewater Wood Alliance. Read on.

Forty people turned up at the Walkerton Clean Water Centre on September 29th for the 2nd Networking Meeting of the Bluewater Wood Alliance. Held in the state-of-the-art meeting facility, the meeting was a tremendous opportunity to meet other members of the wood products manufacturing industry in the region, as well as having a chance to speak to suppliers of machinery, hardware, software and lumber. The networking went on before the presentations, at the break and for quite some time after the meeting was terminated. Rumour has it that a number of the participants also repaired to the local watering hole to continue the discussions over a beer.

The theme presentation of this meeting was tooling, with representatives from three major tooling companies giving presentations on diamond tooling and innovations in tool design that are increasing productivity. There was also a good deal of basic tool talk, helping members to understand some of the rules that apply to feeds and speeds, as well as tips on how to get the most out of tool life. The presentations are available on this website.

The keynote speaker was Jason Koivisto, Manager of Forestry Innovation and Market Development at the Ontario Ministry of Northern Development, Mines and Forestry. He spoke of government programs to help companies coordinate efforts to market Ontario wood products domestically and internationally. His ministry manages the Wood Promotion Program in Ontario, which has just introduced the Ontario Wood visual identifier that can be used on Ontario furniture products. They have a number of export assistance programs that can be accessed to participate in trade missions or at trade shows in other parts of the world. His presentation is available by clicking here.

Watch this website for updates and for an indication of when the next networking meeting will be held. You won’t want to miss it.

Scott Burton of Royce//Ayr

Dean Garbett (l) and Frank Horvath of FS Tool

Brett Reid of BC Saw and Tool

Jason Koivisto, MNDMF

First networking meeting a success!

The first Bluewater Wood Alliance networking meeting in Hanover, Ont., was attended by 32 industry participants.

The first Bluewater Wood Alliance networking meeting in Hanover, Ont., was attended by 32 industry participants. There was a good mix of manufacturing and supplier people there, making for some interesting conversations and a healthy exchange of business cards and experiences.

Aside from the chance to network with other industry folks, they gathered on June 22nd to hear a presentation on attaining FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) chain-of-custody certification, given by Christine Korol of the Rainforest Alliance. With increasing pressure to keep chain-of-custody records for wood products – largely coming out of the European market, architects seeking LEED points and government purchasing authorities – it is time to look at the nuts and bolts of becoming certified.

Ms. Korol’s presentation set out the parameters and gave those present a good idea of what they were looking at from a time, effort and approximate cost standpoint.

Sandwiching the FSC talk, Adam Hofmann, president of both the Bluewater Alliance and Bogdon & Gross Furniture, and managers, Sepp Gmeiner and Blair Tullis, gave presentations on what the Bluewater Wood Alliance is all about. Adam discussed the Grey-Bruce study that led to the formation of the Bluewater Wood Alliance, as well as the start of successful collaboration efforts between 5 companies that started in year 2009.

Christine Korol describes Chain of Custody from the forest to the retailer.

Blair then outlined what has been accomplished to date, including the incorporation of the not-for-profit Bluewater Wood Alliance, the establishment of the name and branding, as well as the creation of the website. He also pointed out the importance of municipal, county, provincial and federal funding to the initial success of the Bluewater Wood Alliance and its ability to hit the ground running with programs.
Finally, Sepp discussed the ongoing projects in purchasing cooperation (fasteners, glass shelves and electricity), experience exchange workshops (optimizing research and development grants), skills development/ training and networking. As a member-driven organization, the Alliance looks to its members for guidance on what programs to provide. Thankfully, that guidance has come early, with the founding members already working on a number of projects to benefit all members.

Sepp Gmeiner describes services available to the members.

At the end, Blair went over the benefits of membership:
• Regular visits to member companies to poll needs and keep members up-to-date on programs
• Networking meetings four times per year
• Cooperation with local high schools, colleges and universities to promote relevant training for industry and careers in wood.
• Cooperation with governments on all levels to understand programs and how they can benefit the member companies
• website and the members-only section for information-sharing.

A number of the participants indicated an interest in joining the Alliance, boding well for the future growth of the Bluewater Wood Alliance.

Bluewater Wood Alliance plants seeds for growth.

A group of like-minded manufacturers and suppliers is adopting the European model of clustering right here in Ontario. The Bluewater Wood Alliance, a not-for-profit group, represents a ‘cluster’ of wood product manufacturers working together for the prosperity of their companies and the industry as a whole.

A group of like-minded manufacturers and suppliers is adopting the European model of clustering right here in Ontario.

The Bluewater Wood Alliance, a not-for-profit group, represents a ‘cluster’ of wood product manufacturers working together for the prosperity of their companies and the industry as a whole.

Alliance Chair Adam Hofmann, president of Bogdon & Gross Furniture Company Ltd. in Walkerton, said the Bluewater Wood Alliance was formed after careful planning and looking at what others – in this case the Europeans – are doing to stay competitive in an increasingly competitive global marketplace.

A study, financed by the Grey Bruce Regional Economic Development Partnership, helped them find and investigate a new approach to promote economic growth and sustainability in the local wood-manufacturing sector.

Hofmann said the alliance uses the clustering approach that has proven successful in Europe and encourages members to work together on common problems and share technology and resources to become more competitive and take back market share from imports.

The Bluewater Wood Alliance area is home to more than 60 companies in the advanced wood products manufacturing industries, which includes home, office and institutional furniture, solid wood flooring, veneer production, kitchen and bath cabinets and millwork.

The area’s wood products manufacturing sector currently employs about 700 with total sales of about $72 million.

Hofmann said the Alliance wants to attract and encourage many of these companies to join them, and in time, they may even expand into the surrounding counties.

“We want to bring these companies together for joint projects in skills development, technology transfer, export development and experience exchanges in our bottom-up driven association,” he says. The goal is to promote economic growth and sustainability of the wood products manufacturing industry in Grey and Bruce counties.

Bluewater consultants Josef (Sepp) Gmeiner and Blair Tullis, say the Alliance wants to help its members to be even more competitive and make their businesses stronger. It’s all about helping each other be better, about growth and sustainability and it is up to the members to set the agenda and drive the results.

Funding for the start-up has been provided in part, by FP Innovations, with further research funding from the Wood Manufacturing Council and the Wood Promotions Program of the Ontario Ministry of Northern Development, Mines and Forestry. The Bluewater Wood Alliance will continue to work with federal and provincial funding agencies to develop infrastructure and project funding, including working with educational institutions on the secondary and post-secondary levels to provide training and skills development for the industry.

Hofmann said although the Alliance is just in its infancy, the response to their efforts for more cooperation among companies in Southwestern Ontario has been phenomenal. They have already partnered with several groups and organizations, including Conestoga College, and members will benefit through these partnerships as they provide access to information and experience exchange workshops, training and skills development, technology transfer and networking meetings to name just a few.

The first networking meeting was held on Hanover, Ont. on June 22, where participants had a chance to lean more about the organization and hear a presentation on FSC certification.

Hofmann was pleased with the attendance and said he has had nothing but positive feedback from participants and prospective members.

“It’s still very early in the process, but we have already achieved a lot in a very short time and know it’s about spreading the word and telling people about the organization and its benefits.”

Bluewater Wood Alliance

Bluewater Wood Alliance board members:•Chair – Adam Hofmann, president of Bogdon & Gross Furniture Company Ltd.

•Vice Chair – Dave Geikie, COO of Durham Furniture Inc.

•Secretary/Treasurer – Paul West, president of West Bros. Furniture

Directors:•Thomas Klein, president of Speke Klein Furniture Incorporated

•Dennis McGlynn, vice president of Bernie McGlynn Lumber Ltd.

•Andrew Schuster, president of Crate Designs

•Mike Vokes, general manager of Vokes Furniture Incorporated.

Woodworking Magazine