NKBA celebrates 50 years of leadership through learning

With nearly 60,000 members today, the NKBA has nurtured the growth of the entire kitchen and bath industry since its founding in 1963.

April 10, 2013

The National Kitchen & Bath Association, the premier association for kitchen and bath professionals with nearly 60,000 members, is celebrating its 50th Anniversary this year, marking a half century of leadership through learning.

The American Institute of Kitchen Dealers (now the National Kitchen & Bath Association) was founded in 1963 at a time when kitchen planning was just beginning to emerge as a specialty.  Lumbermen, carpenters and builders were laying out and installing kitchens, learning as they went, having no easy way to share knowledge with each other. 

Then a small visionary group of kitchen dealers, inspired by a manufacturer’s rep, met near Philadelphia, contributed $463, and formed the Association. With that, the infant industry found its voice.

The founders set goals that remain the cornerstone of the NKBA today. “If you look back and see the goals of the NKBA 50 years ago, compared to today, you’ll see that they are essentially the same: education, consumer awareness and networking. What has changed are the tactics,” said 2013 NKBA President, John K. Morgan.

From its first meeting, Association members called for national training schools, accredited colleges, certified designers, design contests, research and public relations programs to increase consumer confidence in members.

They wasted no time getting started. The first kitchen school was held six months after the Association was founded. The first conference was in 1964 in conjunction with the Mid-Atlantic Lumbermen’s Association, followed by an independent convention and trade show the next year.  The first Design Competition was in 1965 and continues today.  The first kitchen designer was certified in 1968.

Over the past half century, the Association — which changed its name to the National Kitchen & Bath Association in 1983 — has nurtured the growth of the entire kitchen and bath industry, bringing to life all the programs envisioned at its birth, and many more.  It can claim significant achievements in education, consumer awareness and industry networking. 

As the NKBA celebrates its golden anniversary, it looks forward to serving the industry in new and innovative ways, while remaining the “gold standard” for invaluable learning and networking.  NKBA is rolling out its most comprehensive learning program ever this year, and is laying the groundwork for an industry mega-event, Design and Construction Week, in 2014. 

In the area of education, over the past 50 years the NKBA has:

  • Conducted countless kitchen and bath classes across North America and overseas
  • Certified thousands of designers through four design certification programs (CKD, CBD, CMKBD, AKBD)
  • Established a network of over 60 accredited and supported colleges and universities throughout North America to prepare students for industry careers
  • Produced dozens of books on everything from business management to universal design, most recently through its authoritative textbooks in its Professional Resource Library, written by industry professionals and reviewed by a panel of experts. Ongoing updates and new titles are currently in development.
  • Developed 31 Kitchen Planning Guidelines and 27 Bathroom Planning Guidelines, both with access standards, and available on iPhone, iPad and Android devices. These reflect the current industry environment, future trends, consumer lifestyles, latest research and new codes.
  • Published regular industry trend and business reports.

The NKBA’s accomplishments in building consumer awareness include:

  • Orchestrating local, regional and national promotions, from a “Happiness is a New Kitchen” campaign in 1968 to National Kitchen & Bath Month in 1988.
  • Educating homeowners about the benefits of working with members, from seminars at a 1965 show to the creation of today’s Kitchen Planner and Bath Planner that generates qualified leads for members.
  • Creating E-newsletters that help consumers understand more about the complexities of kitchens and baths.
  • Conducting an annual Design Competition that inspires consumers and salutes members who create attractive, safe and functional rooms.
  • Running active public relations and social media programs that promote NKBA professionals to consumers as the preferred resource for creating the two most important rooms in the home. 

Alongside all these tangible accomplishments is the immeasurable benefit of rich friendships and invaluable networking that come with NKBA membership. “The biggest accomplishment of the Association has been connecting the industry, reaching out to all segments and communicating, sharing and learning from each other,” said Morgan. Today the Association membership embraces all segments of the industry including designers, dealers, builders/remodelers, cabinet shops, DPH showrooms, distributors, reps, manufacturers, and multi-branch retailers.

Learning remains the NKBA’s number one objective. “The need for quality education has never been greater – the Association is making significant investments in learning, KBIS conferences and other growth opportunities to build the right support for future member benefits,” said Morgan.

As a thought leader, the NKBA is helping the industry by taking a 360-degree approach to learning starting this year. It is launching its most comprehensive learning program ever, offering career paths in eight competency areas through its convenient LMS system. The focus moves beyond a single course to a structured knowledge path that includes beginner, intermediate and advanced levels.

The competency categories include Design, Talent Management, Communication, Adapt & Innovate (Change Management), Focus on the Consumer, Business Management, Leadership, and Sales & Marketing.

Starting in 2014, KBIS and the International Builders Show (IBS) will both be held at the same time in Las Vegas. This new Design and Construction Week puts the NKBA at the epicenter of one of the world’s largest gatherings focused on new ideas, products and technologies to design, build and remodel homes. Design and Construction Week 2014 is expected to draw more than 75,000 specifiers, builders, dealers and suppliers and 2,000 exhibiting brands, based on recent trends for both shows.

“A year after the Association was founded, they put together a kitchen show that was important to providing member benefits for the next 49 years,” Morgan noted. “This new grand event, Design and Construction Week, is our opportunity to support members for the next 50 years.”

To learn more about the NKBA’s 50 year history, visit NKBA.org.

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