Stairbuilders trade group sees ‘challenges ahead’

David Cooper, executive director of the Stairbuilders and Manufacturers Association, says the trade group’s recent annual conference Tuscaloosa, Ala., was the best attended and most highly rated in the organization’s 29 years with expanded networking and learning opportunities.

Attendees visit the tabletop exhibits at the SMA’s annual conference in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

It featured a plant tour at Fitts Industries, a stair-part manufacturer in Tuscaloosa and a discussion of important industry issues.

“The theme of this year’s conference, ‘Engineering the Future of the Stair Industry,’ was both literal and figurative. The SMA has hit record membership and growth is accelerating. We have greatly increased the value of membership, but see challenges ahead to adapt to changes in our industry and develop the infrastructure that will continue to meet the needs of our members in the years ahead,” Cooper says.

“At the same time, our industry needs to come up with cost-effective solutions that will allow our members’ products to be engineered to comply with structural requirements that are being enforced differently. In the world of engineered materials and products being introduced to residential construction, regulators are now questioning the tried-and-true materials and methods in an entirely different light.”

Attendees also visited the testing labs at Mississippi State University and heard from representatives of the USDA Forest Products Laboratory in Madison, Wis.

“As a result of working with these fine organizations for several years, SMA members were informed of initial funding by the federal government of Phase One of our proposed testing program to determine design values for appearance grade hardwoods. Although it will focus on the primary species used in stairs, this groundbreaking study will establish critical values essential to the use of hardwoods as a structural material,” Cooper says.

The SMA’s 2018 annual conference, titled “Step into the Future, Honor our Past”, is scheduled for April 25-29 in Santa Fe, N.M. The event will focus on the famous Miraculous Staircase of the Loretto Chapel, a curved stairway surrounded by mystery and intrigue for its unusual helix shape and the fact that the name of the builder is still unknown.

For more, visit www.stairways.org.

This article originally appeared in the July 2017 issue.

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