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New NWPCA Chair Focuses on Providing Members Information
New NWPCA Chair: Pallet Enterprise interviews Monte Lewis, president of Preferred Pallets in Cookeville, Tenn., who recently was elected chairman of the board of directors of the National Wooden Pallet and Container Association.

By Staff Writer
Date Posted: 5/1/2001

(Editorís Note: Monte Lowe, president of Preferred Pallets in Cookevile, Tenn., recently was elected chairman of the board of directors of the National Wooden Pallet and Container Association. He agreed to be interviewed by Pallet Enterprise. Our questions and his responses follow.)

Enterprise: What goals or objectives is the NWPCA working to achieve in 2001? What do you consider to be the top three of most importance and why?

Lowe: My basic objective this year is to get valuable information to the membership. I have served on the board for many years, and it allows you access to a lot of good information. It would be nice to share as much of this information as we can with our members, explaining why it may be valuable to them, how they can use it, and give them some encouragement. The other objective is to begin making the NWPCA the voice of the pallet industry.

Enterprise: When you say you want the NWPCA to be the voice of the pallet industry, are you describing it as the voice that keeps members informed, or are you also saying you want it to be the voice that speaks on behalf of members?

Lowe: It really works both ways. But the objective is to make sure that people who utilize pallets will come to regard the NWPCA as their primary source of information about pallets. Right now we are trying to establish our credibility as much as possible. If we can bring users into the process, explain how we can help them, then we will be able to show them different ways pallets can be utilized. As much as possible, we want to be recognized for our expertise. These two objectives are at the top of my list, and they have priority over everything else. A third objective is to create a more international presence for our association.

Enterprise: How will you do that? Will you use the Internet to accomplish that goal?

Lowe: Yes, in fact the NWPCA has a brand new Web site. It can be accessed through either www.palletcentral.com or www.nwpca.com. It is very modern in its style and has lots of good links. We also are going to Interpal this year in Bordeaux, France, as well as the World Pallet Council. We are really trying to get out there. Another asset we have when it comes to establishing a stronger presence in the international scene is that our chair-elect, Jan Fredell, is from Sweden. With his expertise and dealings with world markets from a European perspective, we strongly believe that we are going in the right direction.

Enterprise: How will the accomplishment of 2001 goals benefit NWPCA members?

Lowe: We want to give them information they need to make important business decisions, decisions that will help their company. One example would be information about export wood packaging guidelines from the U.S. Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). Are they going to kiln dry or fumigate? We are going to keep them informed on the APHIS guidelines and other issues.

Enterprise: How will the associationís staff be implementing these goals or objectives?

Lowe: Well, thatís really not a call for me. Iíve talked to Bruce Scholnick, our president, and he will direct the staff. That is something I donít get involved with. That is called micromanagement, and I really donít want to do that. As president, Bruce will oversee the staffís efforts to get valuable information into the hands of members as quickly as possible.

Enterprise: How do you view your role as NWPCA chairman, and specifically with regard to achieving the associationís 2001 goals or objectives?

Lowe: Itís funny. We almost go back to the same answer every time. The way things are happening in the world so quickly, we all hear rumors. But if we provide the facts to our members, they will know what is and is not a rumor, and they will know how they are affected. Another thing we plan to do is survey members regularly to find out what information is valuable to them. The feedback we get will guide our efforts to provide the members with the information that is most helpful to them.

Enterprise: Will you do some of that research yourself or will you simply encourage the staff to stay abreast of issues?

Lowe: Well, one of the first things we did was create a communications committee, which is made up of persons from each of our other committees in the association. It is chaired by Jan Fredell, and the committee will look at each "hot issue" as it arises. Everyone on the communications committee will be kept up to date on the feedback we get from the surveys so we can better assist the members. Itís really exciting to work with these folks. We had our first meeting last week, and there was more enthusiasm than Iíve seen in any committee Iíve ever been involved with.

Enterprise: To what do you attribute that enthusiasm?

Lowe: I think they see that they can really make a difference. They can really have a positive impact for our member pallet companies.

Enterprise: Have you convinced them of that?

Lowe: All you have to do is show people what is taking place in the industry. I donít have to convince them. These people are all intelligent, and they are chomping at the bit to get the information out and help other members.

Enterprise: What are the most important issues facing the pallet industry and why?

Lowe: We are always going to be challenged by the rental situation, pallet leasing. The world market appears to be another key issue, especially when we have to deal with APHIS. What amazes me is these export guidelines do not just affect the great big pallet manufacturers. It affects all of us. I think the first time I ever saw the APHIS guidelines, I thought it would never affect me. Within one week, one of my customers called me and said, ĎWe are getting ready to ship to Brazil, and APHIS tells us weíve got some problems.í The NWPCA was on top of the situation, and we were able to provide information to that customer that was a help to their application.

Enterprise: Where do you see the pallet industry heading?

Lowe: The pallet industry can go any direction. It can either be trampled on by competitors or it can be out front. We are positioning the association to lead the industry. That is our intent. The pallet industry can accomplish more through the association. There is strength in numbers, just as in other industries or other areas of life. And there are a lot of benefits from banding together, such as having access to the kind of shared information I have already discussed.

Enterprise: Are on-line pallet auctions good for the pallet industry? Why or why not?

Lowe: Iím not pleased with where they are right now because they donít adequately represent our member pallet manufacturers and recyclers. The companies that conduct these auctions represent the buyer, and the auctions donít account for the many services that pallet suppliers provide.

Enterprise: Do you believe the auction prices are too low?

Lowe: You arenít bidding apples to apples when you go online. You are only bidding dollars to dollars. I donít think it has been fair to our members at all.

Enterprise: Is there any way that you plan to counter that force in the market?

Lowe: We are studying it. We donít know where we will go yet; we just know we want to study it. I donít think it is a big threat at this point. I may eat those words in a few years, but in a lot of the online auctions I have heard about, the company that won the bid did not actually end up getting the contract. The business ended up going back to the old vendors. I see it as a kind of "gun at your back," but it is not working well. They are trying to make pallets a commodity, and they are not.

Enterprise: What are the biggest challenges or threats facing the wooden pallet industry?

Lowe: I think we have to sell wood as a very viable and recyclable product. There is big money out there that can push products derived from petroleum. But as we all know, the world is not making any more oil. There is only so much of it, a limited supply. On the other hand, we can continue growing trees, and we can grow more. Trees are a renewable natural resource. We need to join forces with other associations to get this message out. We really do have a good product. The raw material we use is renewed. Wooden pallets can be recycled and used again and again, and the wood they contain can be recycled and used for pallets or other purposes. Other businesses promote their products and call them recyclable. Well, there is nothing more recyclable than wood, and wooden pallets.

Enterprise: Why should a pallet company join the NWPCA?

Lowe: The NWPCA is going to be the primary source of the kind of valuable information that pallet companies will need to survive and prosper. Without this information, a company may have to make important business decisions on the basis of rumors and hear-say, and we all know how good rumors are.

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