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Inventors command the spotlight

BY Ken Clark

Las Vegas — A palpable air of optimism and creativity permeated the Inventors Spotlight area of the 2016 National Hardware Show.

From ergonomic painting tools to infrared speed strippers, the newly hatched product concepts gathered here solved all kinds of home improvement problems, even those you didn't know existed. And there was a steady buzz of conversations and demonstrations.

Mark Sizer manned the Mini Firefighter display, promoting an aerosol foam spray that fights fires. How does it compare with traditional fire extinguishers? "It's better actually."

There was no shortage of that kind of positive thinking up and down the six aisles of the Inventors Spotlight area. Tom Rose, inventor of the Weed Wand Magic, said golf courses have been using his precision herbicide injector since 2009. "Not one is dissatisfied," he said, demonstrating the product by quickly marking a wet spot on the carpet. "You don't spray herbicide," he explained. "You inject it."

Other products ranged from a self-watering planter to a dumpster fly trap. Miriam Wu was promoting the Power Cube electrical outlet expander as a more elegant alternative to the traditional power strip. The product was branded under the "Allocacoc" banner — that's Coca Cola spelled backwards, with an extra 'L'" she said.

Greg Freuler is the inventor of the GalaxG free hand paint brush and other ergonomic painting tools. He says several "major companies" have shown interest, and he thinks he knows why.

"If paint brushes were designed today, they'd look like this," he said, pointing to the rounded curvy handle that slips between the thumb and forefinger. "They wouldn't look like a stick."

Colin Spencer is an inventor who came all the way from England to showcase his Speed Stripper, which employs an infrared device to coax paint off wood, without burning it. His demo was low-budget, but extremely successful. The marketing slogan appearing above his table —  "The Best Stripper in Vegas" — was less impressive.

Bryson Lovett is inventor of the Bird Photo Booth 2.0, described as the world's first wireless bird feeder and bird Cam combo, bringing a new approach to backyard birding. ("I have some hilarious footage of squirrels," he said.)

Around the corner of the consistently crowded inventors area, Greg Shank was holding his Deck Gap Wizard, showing off the adjustable teeth to clean debris from between boards in decks. A reporter suggested the analogy of a comb. "Others have suggested it's more like a floss," he countered.

Like other inventors here, Shank came up with the idea for the product when he was confronted by a challenge in his own home improvement experience. And he intends to find more solutions to "gaps in the market."

Geoff Phillips is a South African inventor who developed the idea for his VaniCover, an easy-on, easy-off cover for the bathroom sink, when he found out how much it cost to take his little dog, Scrappy, to the groomers. He didn't want to pay the $50, so he invented a prototype for his vanity cover.

"That was the a-ha moment," he said.

With the VaniCover, homeowners can now convert their sink into a dog bath, while protecting the vanity from the mess.

Scrappy now stars in the VaniCover promotional video.

The Inventors Spotlight area was sponsored by Invention Home and the United Inventors Association.

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Quikrete Industry Dashboard: The jobs situation

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Though unemployment held the course in April, residential building and hardware retailing jobs experienced a setback.

(Click below for a larger version)

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Unemployment holds steady at 5.0%

BY HBSDealer Staff

The U.S. economy added 160,000 jobs in April, which was enough to hold the unemployment rate at 5.0%, even as employment decreased for building material dealers and residential specialty trade contractors.

Though the residential construction industry added 7,100 jobs, residential specialty trade contractors were down 10,900 jobs.

Meanwhile, building material and garden equipment and supplies dealers were down 2,400 jobs in April as well.

The biggest job gains occurred in professional and business services (65,000), healthcare (44,000) and financial activities (20,000).

The biggest losses continued in mining, which declined by 7,000 jobs in April and is down 191,000 jobs since September 2014.

The number of unemployed persons was little changed at 7.9 million, though the number of long-term unemployed declined by 150,000 to 2.1 million in April. The number of people marginally attached to the labor force was also down by 400,000 year-over-year. However, the labor force participation rate also decreased to 62.8%.

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