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Forest industry strikes back

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Agroup calling itself the Coalition for Fair Forest Certification has filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) claiming that the Forest Stewardship Council and the U.S. Green Building Council have created an anti-competitive environment in the U.S. wood products industry, according to an article in the New York Times.

At the heart of the complaint is the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design rating system, commonly known as LEED, which is administered by the U.S. Green Building Council. The coalition asserts that LEED is anti-competitive because it only recognizes wood products certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and not those of other certifying bodies.

According to the Times, the letter was submitted to the FTC on behalf of the coalition by the law firm Steptoe & Johnson. A spokesman for the law firm would not identify the members of the coalition, although he said they included a number of forest products companies and major timber companies that also belong to the Sustainable Forestry Initiative.

The Sustainable Forestry Initiative, another certifying body for wood products used in green building projects, is also the subject of a complaint filed in September with the FTC. An environmental group called ForestEthics is challenging SFI’s credibility and non-profit status.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Green Building Council is in the final stages of updating its standards for wood products sourcing and certification, a process that has drawn more than 2,800 comments from interested parties.

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Universal to distribute Accoya wood

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Grand Rapids, Mich.-based Universal Forest Products Western Division and Titan Wood, a subsidiary of ATPLC, have announced that Universal’s Western Division will distribute Titan’s Accoya wood in the United States.

Accoya is a modified wood made from certified sustainable sources, using an eco-friendly process.

“We are constantly seeking innovative new products such as Accoya wood for our portfolio in order to meet the needs of our broad range of customers,” said Dick Frazier, president of UFP-WD. “We are delighted to be working with Titan Wood in distributing this revolutionary product.”

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Nowhere to go but up

BY HBSDEALER Staff

San Diego — Alan Beaulieu, executive VP of the Institute of Trend Research, delivered a sobering forecast on Oct. 23 to the Lumber Association of California and Nevada (LACN): inflation will gradually rise, and the dollar will continue to weaken in 2010, resulting in much higher lumber prices in 2011 and the possible collapse of the dollar.

Dealers should re-evaluate their inventory needs next year, Beaulieu said, and consider increasing their stock at pre-inflation prices. Housing starts will fall to 500,000 to 550,000 annual units in 2010, he predicted, before slowly climbing back up in 2011. Expect the feds to raise interest rates, Beaulieu added.

But not all the news was troubling. The economist predicted an uptick in remodeling based on figures from the Harvard Joint Centers on Housing Studies and his own research. “We’ve gone through a trough, and now we’re on an ascent,” he said.

Beaulieu offered the California dealers several suggestions for keeping their profits — and their businesses — intact, ending with the now familiar “Hope is not a strategy” refrain. Other speakers at the two-day event, held at the historic U.S. Grant Hotel, pointed out various regulatory or legal potholes that marked the road ahead. Attorney Laura Innes covered recent court decisions on sexual harassment, gender discrimination in hiring, ADA compliance and the definition of a “hostile work environment.”

Now would be a good time to review sales commission agreements, including chargeback policies, Innes advised. “There’s been a lot of case law on commissions in the last two years, so it might be time to look at them again,” she said.

The event ended with an officers’ installation dinner where Laurie Vance of The Mill Yard was named the new association president.

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