The theme of the American hardwood convention in Poland at the end of October was “market opportunities”. In view of the current economic climate, it may seem strange to be talking about growth when European hardwood stocks are generally low, liquidity tight and demand unpredictable.

In fact, the convention this year saw AHEC’s best turnout, confirming that the need for an active approach to growing business is greater than ever. Where many businesses simply don’t have the time and resources to fund research and development, AHEC identifies trends, articulates change and predicts future activity and, with the convention, provides a platform to share knowledge with the industry to help find opportunities to boost trade from a generic perspective.

It is always a challenge to fill the room with real timber folk, all of whom have busy schedules and limited travelling budgets. The balance between business contact and networking while sowing some key ideas through presentations and panels discussions makes AHEC’s conventions unique events and the feedback received already proves the value of this generic communications approach.

But how can we turn discussions into real business growth? It’s not just important to talk among ourselves; it’s about talking to the key decision makers. AHEC focuses a great deal of attention on communicating on a business to consumer level, with projects targeted at architects and designers, such as the Timber Wave and AHEC’s continued support for the Wood Awards. This is essential to offer inspiration and pull demand through.

AHEC is keen to engage the timber industry more in this process and encourages educational workshops to communicate hardwood’s potential and its environmental credentials to key decision makers. AHEC’s fight for red oak continues; with such an extensive fibre resource in America we cannot be defeatist and we need to continue to promote key species and challenge thinking, using our strong environmental message as a catalyst.

We should be optimistic about the future and we hope AHEC’s work for the industry will make a difference.

• TTJ Industry Updates are a forum for trade bodies to address key issues.