Builders’ Show begins in Orlando
Orlando, Fla. The International Builders’ Show kicked off in earnest Wednesday morning here at the Orange County Convention Center. Among the hot topics on the show floor and in the myriad seminar rooms: the economy and the environment, with a little politics in the mix.
The official opening ceremony keynote brought out political consultants Mary Matalin and James Carville, a married couple on opposite sides of the political spectrum. Matalin earned applause when she told the crowd that she was proud of the National Association of Home Builders for its decision announced Tuesday to freeze all contributions to federal congressional candidates through its BUILD-PAC political action committee. The action was based on the belief that Congress and the Bush administration have not done enough in the past six months to address the housing sector, and the freeze will remain in effect until further notice.
Several thousand builders crammed into the massive auditorium for the opening ceremony, which also featured a musical review of Orlando attractions, starring Florence Henderson (better known as Carol Brady from “The Brady Bunch”).
Apanel of economists participated in one of the more well-attended educational seminars, in which NAHB chief economist David Seiders described a relatively optimistic forecast. In his picture, the housing market will see an upturn either in late 2008 or early 2009. Further, the American economy as a whole will avoid recession, partly as a result of the economic stimulus plan.
Of course, many stats presented were bleak. One chart showed building permits in all 50 states — every single state showed some degree of decline compared to 2005. “The wildcard in 2008 is the number of houses in foreclosure,” said Seiders. “It’s very difficult to estimate.”
David Berson, senior vp and chief economist of risk management firm PMI Group, was the most pessimistic of the panelists and said he believed the economy already was in a recession.
Despite the general market conditions, attendance was expected by organizers to reach about 100,000 people, a figure similar to that of last year’s event. Some attendees, however, said they observed a noticeable decline in traffic.
On the show floor, green products and green building practices were a common theme. Thursday at the show has been declared “Green Day,” during which the NAHB will officially launch its Certified Green Professional designation for home builders and remodelers.
Wal-Mart launches solar pilot program
Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart Stores announced it has completed the first stage in its pilot program to use solar power in its retail stores.
The company has already converted the Chino, Calif., Sam’s Club, one of seven California stores the company will convert for the pilot program.
“Wal-Mart is moving forward with its commitment to conserve energy, reduce energy costs and lower greenhouse gas emissions, and this project is a step in the right direction,” said Kim Saylors-Laster, vp-energy at Wal-Mart.
Once installed, Wal-Mart said it hopes solar power systems will provide approximately 30 percent of the power to its stores.
“Installing the solar power systems will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 8,000 to 10,000 metric tonnes a year,” said David Ozment, director of energy at Wal-Mart.
The company said 15 locations in Hawaii will also be included in the program.
Wal-Mart described the project as a major step toward its goal of using 100 percent renewable energy.
Pope & Talbot to sell sawmills
Portland, Ore.-based Pope & Talbot announced that it has agreed to sell its Fort St. James and Midway sawmills.
The company said it will sell the Fort St. James sawmill to the Sinar Mas Group for $6 million and the Midway sawmill to Fox Lumber Sales for $750,000.
The sales are subject to approval by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court and the Canadian Court, as well as customary regulatory approvals in Canada and the United States. The company said it expects to receive such approvals and close the transactions in the second quarter of 2008.
Sinar Mas Group is a global enterprise with significant interests in pulp and paper in Indonesia, China and elsewhere. Sinar Mas is the largest producer of pulp and paper in Asia and is one of the top five in the world. Pope & Talbot sold three Canadian-based pulp sawmills to the Sinar Mas Group last month.
Fox Lumber Sales is a full service lumber manufacturing business headquartered in Hamilton, Mont.
Pope & Talbot was founded in 1849 and produces market pulp and softwood lumber at mills in the United States and Canada.