Congress Scrutinizes Chinese Drywall
Congress reached out to even more federal agencies on Feb. 27, asking for investigations into claims that drywall from China is emitting sulfuric gases, which deteriorates HVAC systems and electrical wiring in homes. There are health-related complaints, as well.
Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-Fla.) has written to the Federal Trade Commission and the U.S. Trade Representative, sending the agencies copies of newspaper stories about the drywall and asking them to "take any corrective steps available to resolve the issue." Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) wrote to the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission, asking that agency to investigate.
Dealers Push Issues on Capitol Hill
Close to 125 building material dealers and distributors visited scores of House and Senate offices on March 17 and 18 seeking legislation to fix housing first, a quick death for a measure that would make union organizing easier, and support for a bill protecting dealers against lawsuits over problems in which they are not at fault.
The visits concluded a joint legislative conference held by the National Lumber and Building Material Dealers Association (NLBMDA) and the North American Building Material Distribution Association.
NLBMDA's chief legislative goal was cosponsorship and support of S. 253/H.R. 1119, the "Fix Housing First Home Buyer Tax Credit Act," introduced by Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) and Rep. Lincoln Davis (D-Tenn.). The measure would increase and extend the home buyer tax credit, which in the recently enacted economic stimulus law provides only about $8,000 worth of tax credits to a limited number of people.
Dealers also urged the opposition of any votes that come up on the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), H.R. 1409/S. 560. The measure in effect would make it easier for unions to organize by requiring employers to recognize a union if a majority of employees simply sign an authorization card.
Finally, NLBMDA pressed for continued support in the House for the Innocent Sellers Fairness Act (ISFA). This measure would free sellers and retailers from any potential liability for a product if all they did was sell the product. On the other hand, if sellers were found negligent with respect to certain, non-sale activities, they would still be responsible for the harm their negligence causes.
ISFA has been NLBMDA's No. 1 issue in recent years, but this year it trails the housing rescue and EFCA. Also, unlike the other issues, there's no bill to support in this case.
BFS, BMHC Post Losses
Builders FirstSource said its net loss deepened six-fold in '08 to $139.5 million from $23.8 million in 2007 on a 32.7% decline in sales to $1.03 billion from 2007's $1.53 billion. The Dallas-based dealer's net loss almost tripled in the fourth quarter alone from the previous year to reach $58.9 billion from $20.4 million in the year-earlier quarter on a 30.6% drop in net sales to $201.3 million.
The dealer closed or mothballed 14 facilities during 2008. As of Dec. 31, 2008, headcount was cut 39.3% from the year earlier to 3,274. BFS has 58 yards and 57 manufacturing facilities in 11 states.
Also, Building Materials Holding Corp. recently reported a net loss of $104 million in the fourth quarter 2008, pushing its net loss for the year to $215 million. Sales fell 42% for the quarter to $233 million. For the year, BMHC sales decreased 39% to $1.3 billion.
While severe, 2008's fourth-quarter net loss was far lighter than the $331 million loss in the final three months of 2007. Likewise, the $215 million loss for the year was a sharp improvement from 2007's loss of $313 million.
During the year, the company moved its headquarters from San Francisco to Boise, Idaho, closed 42 locations, and consolidated 15 business units that were "deemed underperforming." BMHC also reduced its total headcount by 42% in field operations and 12% in administration.
DeCarlo Retiring From LMC
Lumbermen's Merchandising Corp. (LMC) announced on March 6 that president and CEO Anthony J. DeCarlo, 68, will retire Dec. 31 after 32 years with the company.
DeCarlo joined LMC in 1977 as chief financial officer; in 1988, he became vice president of purchasing. He was elected president and CEO in January 1991. In his 19 years as president, LMC has grown from a company with a membership located east of the Mississippi River to a national organization. DeCarlo will act as a consultant through a period of transition as the board identifies his successor.
LP, BlueLinx Report Losses for 2008
Louisiana-Pacific Corp. reported its net loss from continuing operations in the fourth quarter of 2008 deepened more than six times from the year-earlier period to reach $339.4 million. As a result, LP's net loss from continuing operations for the year nearly quadrupled, to $569.1 million. Meanwhile, BlueLinx reported a $25.1 million net loss for the fourth quarter ended Jan. 3, 2009. For the full year, BlueLinx reported a net loss of $31.7 million compared to a net loss of $27.9 million in 2007.
Herrington's of Hillsdale, N.Y., has closed its branch in Catskill, N.Y., less than seven months after acquiring it from Dunn Builders Supply. An office in Lenox, Mass., was also closed. ... ABC Supply Co.has acquired Chesapeake Siding and Roofing, which has locations in Chesapeake, Va., and Jarvisburg, N.C. ... Recent companies to go out of business are Landreth Lumber, based in Bunker Hill, Ill., andSpringfield Mill and Lumber in Missouri.
The Northeastern Retail Lumber Association (NRLA) honored their lumber persons of the year and lifetime achievement award winners in Boston on Feb. 4. The groups, their awards, and their winners are: Lumber Dealers Association of Connecticut, Person of the Year, Robert Sanford of Sanford & Hawley, Unionville, Conn.
New York Lumber Dealers Association, Lifetime Achievement Award, John Brill, NRLA's president from 1986 to 2001. ... Long Island Lumber Association, Person of the Year, Kevin Keillor Sr., Thurber Lumber Co., Rocky Point, N.Y. ... Retail Lumber Dealers Association of Maine, Lumber Person of the Year, Roxy Helm, Huttig Building Products, Augusta, Maine. ... Massachusetts Retail Lumber Dealers Association, Person of the Year, Joe Burgoyne, Ideal Concrete Block Co., Waltham, Mass. ... Massachusetts Retail Lumber Dealers Association, Lifetime Achievement Award, Lou Kaitz, National Lumber Co., Mansfield, Mass. ... Mid-Hudson Lumber Dealers Association, Person of the Year, Kimberley Williams, Williams Lumber & Home Centers, Rhinebeck, N.Y. ... New Hampshire Retail Lumber Association, Person of the Year, Stephen Grzywacz, Milford (N.H.) Lumber Co. ... New York and Suburban Lumber Association, Person of the Year, Lance Wagner Sr., Glendale (N.Y.) Lumber Co. ... New York and Suburban Lumber Association, Lifetime Achievement Award, George Jones Jr., Garden State Lumber Products, Oakland, N.J. ... Rhode Island Lumber and Building Materials Dealer Association, Lifetime Achievement Award,Merrill Temkin, Rafferty Aluminum & Steel Co., Sterling, Mass. ... Vermont Retail Lumber Dealers Association, Person of the Year, Lang Durfee, Bethel Mills (Vt.) Lumber Co.
Employees at Lamperts, a St. Paul, Minn.?based dealer, used to wear buttons that declared "I am #2." Why No. 2? When a customer asked, "Who's No. 1?," a Lamperts employee would reply, "You are."
Green Goods Rising
The U.S. market for green building materials is expected to surpass $80 billion by 2013, with a predicted 7.2% annual increase from $57 billion in 2008, according to a report by the Freedonia Group. The report states that FSC-certified lumber and wood panels will be the fastest-growing segment, more than tripling in the next four years. Water- and energy-efficient fixtures will undergo double-digit growth.
Spread the Word!
Send your company's news, announcements, and events to Andy Carlo, via e-mail acarlo@hanley wood.com or fax 202.785.1974.