Juan Quesada, president of Tibbetts Lumber, and Spike Cissel, head of Manning Building Supplies, didn't mince words at a Sept. 23 panel discussion when describing what they regard as the suicidally low bids in Florida that were offered by big national competitors. They didn't name names, but smaller independent dealers frequently include companies like ProBuild, Builders FirstSource, Stock Building Supply, and 84 Lumber on their list of troublemakers.

Quesada said he sees "desperate competitors doing foolish things" that depart from smart business practices. Cissel said he believes there probably are more dealers in Florida than the state can support today, remarking that "price-cutting SOBs ... is a component of life that needs to go away."

Neither bought the argument that big national builders, with their constant jawboning for cheaper products and requests for "transparent pricing," deserved the blame for drawing dealers' cutthroat bids.

"The national builders aren't the problem. It's the level of stupidity in our industry," Quesada said.

The two men spoke at a panel discussion in Kissimmee, Fla., that helped mark the first full day of the Florida Building Material Association's annual Main Event and Gulf Atlantic Building Products Expo. The panelists painted a mixed but generally gloomy picture of the business climate in Florida and predicted it could take anywhere from nine to 36 months before conditions in the Sunshine State show marked improvement. Florida has the fifth-highest unemployment rate and sixth-highest foreclosure rate in the nation, according to the latest statistics.