February 07, 2023
Against the Grain: Welcome to 2023
What would the new year be without a proper introduction, so for those of you who don’t know me, my name is Steve Rustja. This year, I have the absolute honor of serving the NAWLA membership as the Chair of the Board of Directors. At the same time, I serve as Vice President of Trading at Weston Forest Products and am based out of Mississauga in Ontario, Canada.
I’ve been a member of the NAWLA Board of Directors since 2018 and thanks to this current Board and many, many previous Boards, NAWLA finds itself in a very fortunate position as we set our eyes on opportunity in 2023. In January, the NAWLA Board of Directors met to help guide the organization forward through 2023 and beyond. Here’s what I can tell you.
NAWLA is much more than just our annual Traders Market event. NAWLA is a dynamic association that serves our member community and the broader industry throughout the year, and in many respects, the year kicks off with the Leadership Summit event next month.
The Leadership Summit is a unique event for NAWLA as it is open to all in the industry. Over the course of the three days, industry leaders and decision makers get together to network, find small refuge from the winter, and share trends, best practices and insights from our own experience. The event will be back at the JW Marriott Desert Resort & Spa in Palm Desert, California and I’d encourage anyone either new to NAWLA or looking to learn more, to check it out. We have the full schedule and information available here.
In April, NAWLA will continue its newer partnership with Northwestern University in Chicago to host our Executive Management Institute. This educational experience is unlike any others as it tailors an MBA-level education into the lumber industry, as designed by many of our own lumber executives, to give an immersive, personalized experience for senior leadership in the forest products industry.
NAWLA also hosts our Wood Basics course in both the Spring and the Fall in order to provide those, newer in the industry, a look at the entire ecosystem of forest products. The courses travel around to different locations and are always sought after so I’d encourage anyone that sees an open registration to take advantage. You won’t be disappointed.
And for those looking for less travel or virtual options, NAWLA also hosts a series of Regional Meetings in order to connect industry members in certain areas as well as year-round webinars, put on by the NAWLA Education Committee and Staff that center around relevant topics/trends.
One trend in particular that is very near and dear to me is also the young professionals working in forest products. NAWLA is actively recruiting new members for our Young Emerging Lumber Professionals (YELP) cohort to be a part of educational and strategic retreat this summer in Chicago. These folks are the future of NAWLA and the future of our industry and I am beyond grateful to play a role in supporting our YELP-ers with the leadership development opportunities they need to carry both forward.
Under the leadership of both my predecessors, Bill Price and Bethany Doss, NAWLA is aligned to a strategic plan that takes aim at the future of our organization and how we can best serve our members well into the future. I am so excited to be a part of the growth on the horizon as we look to expand our educational offerings and our ability to serve as a platform for continued mentorship in our industry.
So one of my goals for the year is that when you think of NAWLA, you don’t just think of Traders Market. NAWLA is so much more than one event. It’s a series of opportunities, a platform for connection and a strong community of members. Members that play a big role in making NAWLA what it is today and every member has a story so this year, we are also going to be sharing more stories of our members. Stay tuned on NAWLA’s social media accounts to learn more!
This is truly a special time to be a part of our association I want to personally extend our thank you to all of the members for your continued support and outstanding sense of community. And, if you see me at any number of our events, I encourage you to stop and say hello.
Vice President – Trading | Weston Forest Products
2023 NAWLA Chair