U.S. Congressman Tom Graves was the keynote speaker at the Carpet and Rug Institute's annual membership meeting held Wednesday, Nov. 9, at the Northwest Georgia Trade and Convention Center in Dalton.

Representative Graves spoke about the connection between the U.S. housing market and Northwest Georgia's carpet industry, mentioning he is currently sponsoring legislation with U.S Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga, designed to reduce foreclosures by allowing people to withdraw funds from their 401(k) and individual retirement accounts to pay down the principal on their home mortgages without incurring penalties.

In CRI business, InterfaceFLOR's President and CEO John Wells was retained for his second year as chairman of the CRI board of directors. CRI President Werner Braun updated members on the new CRI structure which eliminates the technical, marketing and government issues committees in favor of three content area panels overseen by a Strategic Issues Management Team, or SILC.

Board members for 2012 include Vance Bell, Shaw Industries, Jeff Lorberbaum, Mohawk Industries, Ralph Boe, Beaulieu Group, John Wells, Interface Americas, David Moody, Milliken and Dan Frierson, The Dixie Group. David Duncan, Invista Performance Surfaces & Materials, Franco Rossi, Aquafil Solutions and Dan Rogers, Omnova Solutions will serve as Associate Manufacturer members. The five remaining seats will be held by Glen Hussmann, Tandus Flooring, David Jolly, J&J Industries, Jack Ganley, Mannington Carpet, Chip Howalt, Textile Rubber & Chemical and Bob Shaw, Engineered Floors. Del Land, Beaulieu Group will serve as CRI treasurer.

Shaw Industries' Chief Counsel Rick Hooper received the Joseph Smrekar Award. The award was established by Milliken & Company to honor the late Dr. Joe Smrekar who served on numerous CRI committees. Award recipients are chosen by CRI staff in recognition of individuals who have shown "unusual and exemplary service to the carpet and rug industry". Mr. Hooper is a past-president of the Government Issues Committee and currently serves as vice-chairman of the CARE/EPR Panel. He served as the carpet industry's lead negotiator with California on the AB 2398 Carpet Product Stewardship legislation.