Barr Lumber closes West Covina yard
An LBM chain that has been eroding away in California’s Inland Empire is set to close another location, this one in West Covina. At one time Barr Lumber had seven locations in southeastern California, but according to the Sun Gabriel Valley Tribune, stores in San Bernardino and Apple Valley have also closed.
Owner John Shirley purchased the West Covina location in 2008, when it was Pick’s Building Materials. While recognizing that housing starts in Riverside and San Bernardino were plummeting, Shirley remained interested in Pick’s because it served a number of commercial/industrial businesses.
“In this business, you have to take the opportunities that come along to expand,” Shirley told Home Channel News at the time of the purchase. “The long-range opportunities make it worth the risk."
The economic downturn in the Inland Valley continues unabated however. Unemployment in July was 14.3%.
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General contractors getting caught in the squeeze
Too many contractors taking on too much low-bid work just to stay alive may soon result in a market shake-out, according to a report by FMI, a leading provider of management consulting and investment banking to the engineering and construction industry.
FMI’s third-quarter nonresidential construction report index has dropped 5 points, putting it back at second-quarter 2010 levels. On the rise is the number of contractors participating in self-funded projects as a financing partner with owner/developers, the report said.
“Eighty-five percent of our work is being funded through self-funding or in some case, equity investors,” said one construction industry executive who serves as panelists for FMI’s quarterly surveys. The survey found fewer bank loans for construction and more government backed loans and grants.
The rising material and labor costs, combined with lower project management fees and profit margins, are resulting in an upturn in bankruptcies for construction industry firms, the report said. Nearly a third of the panelists surveyed have seen a decline in trade contractors, with more than 10% noting fewer general contractors and design firms.
“There are still too many contractors chasing too little work,” commented one survey participant. “Owners still seem to be selecting the lowest price, driving margins to the lowest level we have ever seen.”
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Joe Hardy wins in Pennsylvania Supreme Court
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court handed a victory to Nemacolin Woodlands Resort on Aug. 21 when it upheld the decision to grant a casino license to Joe Hardy, the founder of both Nemacolin and 84 Lumber.
The connection between the two businesses was factored into an objection raised by Mason-Dixon Resorts, which wanted to build its own casino but lost out when the Pennsylvania Gaming Board awarded Nemacolin the only slot machine license.
Mason-Dixon claimed that the close relationship of Nemacolin to 84 Lumber, which it accused of being financially unstable, made Nemacolin a poor choice for the license. The court disagreed.
Hardy also won the legal skirmish over background checks, which Mason-Dixon claimed were inadequate and “failed to reveal various problems.”
Without getting into specifics because of confidentiality, the appellate judges said they looked into the “allegations of wrongdoings by a principal of [Nemacolin], specifically Joseph Hardy, the crux of which was determined to be unsupported. All records of the alleged incident were expunged. No criminal prosecution was pursued and no conviction resulted.” Gaming board investigators examined other evidence, and the board heard testimony during closed sessions, the judges noted. “We find neither a violation of the “prudent man” rule nor a capricious disregard of the evidence.
The appellate judges also decreed that, although both Nemacolin and 84 Lumber are owned by a family trust, a financial review of the application was able to determine that “any alleged financial instability of 84 Lumber would not undermine the financial suitability of the proposed [Nemacolin] gaming facility.”
Barring any other appeals, the ruling clears the way for Nemacolin casino, which will feature 600 slot machines and 28 gaming tables, as well as a restaurant and lodge, to open in 2013. It will be named “Lady Luck.”
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