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Irwin Ace closes Cedar Springs, S.C., store

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Irwin Ace Hardware is closing its Cedar Springs, S.C., location — one of its two stores in the Spartanburg area — after 20 years in business, according to GoUpstate.com. The company sited the economic downturn as the reason for closing.

Irwin Ace’s other store on the east side of Spartanburg will remain open, the article said.

Irwin began liquidating the Cedar Spring store’s merchandise on March 19. The store is also running a contest whereby customers can earn points to win a number of prize items valued from $30 to $500. The sale is expected to last about eight weeks, and the prizes will be awarded on May 8.

Irwin recently completed a 4,000-square-foot expansion and re-merchandising of its east-side store, which is about three miles from the Cedar Springs location. The store now has an improved hardware selection and layout, an enhanced post office facility and a larger gift department.

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Builders talk about liquidity, asset management

BY Brae Canlen

SAN DIEGO — A panel of multi-family builders during a National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) conference gave a stark outlook for 2009, saying they plan no new housing units starts this year because of liquidity issues.

“Right now, getting started on apartment and condo projects is virtually impossible,” said Leonard Wood, founder of Wood Partners, a multi-family housing developer with operations in Washington, D.C.; the Southeast; Texas; the Southwest; and California. Wood said his firm is concentrating on refinancing its current construction loans and selling excess inventory.

 

Wood’s comments were echoed by several other builders who participated in a panel discussion at the National Association of Home Builders’ Pillars of the Industry conference, held at San Diego’s famous Hotel Del Coronado. Aimed at multi-family builders, the two-day event drew nearly 200 building material suppliers, utility companies, engineering firms, bankers and other attendees.

Four of the five multi-family builders on the State of the Industry panel said they planned to start no new units this year. Instead, most were “right sizing” their firms, looking for new financing and preserving their liquidity. When asked to forecast a housing market bottom, Charles Brindell Jr., president and CEO of Trammell Crow Residential Co., predicted there would be “no improvement economically until the second half of 2010.”

“Instead of being focused on new products, we’re focused on asset management,” Brindell said.

Ronald Ratner, executive VP and director of Forest City Residential Group, said: “I don’t think we’re anywhere near bottom. Major job layoffs are just starting to occur. We haven’t seen the impact of that yet.”

Representatives of both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac attended the first day of the conference. Multi-family builders said they are now turning to these agencies for financing in the absence of other sources of capital.

KB Home president and CEO Jeff Mezger, the only single-family home builder on the March 18 panel discussion, said it’s still possible to make money in some markets — as long as you build a product that fits the income level of the local population. KB Home is now building smaller homes that are value engineered, he said, adding: “[We’ve] got to lower the cost of the product to the consumer.”

Elaborating on those comments in a later interview with Home Channel News, Mezger described “cost visibility” as a concept that KB Homes is adopting with its suppliers.

“We want to know the split between the labor and the building materials,” Mezger explained. “We may not buy the materials directly, but we’re interested in the suppliers’ costs. We want to remove some of the layers of distribution, and you can’t do that unless you know where [the materials] come from and what they cost.”

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Weyerhaeuser announces more iLevel closings

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Weyerhaeuser announced it will close iLevel lumber mills in Wright City, Okla., and Dallas, Ore., effective immediately. The decision will affect 307 employees.

The Federal Way, Wash.-based company cited a reduced demand for wood products due to the housing market slowdown.

Earlier this month, Weyerhaeuser announced it was closing four other iLevel manufacturing plants along with five of the division’s service centers. So far this year, the forestry company has shuttered 10 wood products facilities and reduced operations at all other sites.

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