LACN convention draws dealers, protestors
Monterey, Calif. Green building topics dominated the agenda of the Lumber Association of California and Nevada (LACN) annual meeting this year, but that didn’t stop protestors from gathering outside the hotel on Nov. 2 to picket Sierra Pacific Industries, an LACN member who attended the event. A crowd of 30 individuals, organized by ForestEthics, chanted and held signs urging the Redding, Calif., lumber producer to stop its clear-cutting logging practices. In response, a spokesman for Sierra Pacific Industries said the company operates under sustainable forestry practices. “The state approves all of our timber harvesting,” the spokesman said.
Inside the hotel, Mark LaLiberte of Building Knowledge, kicked off the conference by urging dealers to stay ahead of the green building curve by familiarizing themselves with the green industry’s offerings. “People don’t want to buy anything from someone who knows less than they do,” he observed.
LaLiberte gave numerous examples of building materials, some inexpensive and easy to install, that reduce energy consumption and block moisture from coming into houses. He also talked about the unforeseen consequences of some well-intentioned products, like whole-house fans designed to cool down home interiors. Installed in today’s airtight homes, these powerful fans can suck air out of the garage, where gasoline, pesticides and other toxic chemicals often reside, he observed.
Educating builders and contractors is just the first step, LaLiberte said. “Dealers are going to have to help their builders market [green] homes,” he predicted.
The debate over various green building standards came up during Kelly McCloskey’s presentation on the use of lumber in non-residential building projects. A representative of the Wood Promotion Network, McCloskey outlined the differences between the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED and the Green Building Initiative’s Green Globes rating systems. Lumber dealers around the country should urge their legislators not to codify one set of standards over the other, McCloskey said, adding, “Give the markets some options.”
The LACN is currently lobbying the Nevada state legislature to offer tax breaks to buildings that qualify under both rating systems, according to executive director Ken Dunham. The trade association was also instrumental in persuading California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to veto legislation last month that would have mandated LEED standards (or their equivalent) in state buildings. The LACN and other representatives of the wood products industry had opposed the bills, saying they went too far in their effort to promote sustainable building practices.
The three-day convention also included sessions on selling wood products to commercial builders, finding and hiring quality people and budgeting/forecasting. Although attendees commiserated over the state’s building slump — production of single-family homes fell 50 percent in September, according to the California Building Industry Association –several dealers said they were keeping busy with high-end remodels.
True Value revenue down 3.9 percent
Chicago-based True Value reported sales of $478.5 million for the third quarter, down 3.9 percent from $497.9 million for the same period in 2006.
The co-op reported a net margin of $12 million, down 34.4 percent from $18.3 million a year ago. Net margin is a measurement of net earnings specific to the co-op model.
The prior year’s net margin included a $6.3 million one-time gain due to a legal matter. Excluding last year’s nonrecurring gain, year-to-date net margin was down 2.5 percent.
The company saw a 1.6 percent growth in warehouse shipments to True Value retailers. The company blamed sales declines in part on the timing of its annual fall market, held Oct. 30 within the fourth fiscal quarter. Revenue and profit from market activities benefited the third quarter in 2006 but will benefit the fourth quarter in 2007.
Third-quarter profit levels were in line with the company’s plan, True Value said in a statement.
True Value had sales of $2 billion in 2006. The co-op includes approximately 5,500 independent retailer locations under banners including True Value, Grand Rental Station, Taylor Rental, Party Central, Home & Garden Showplace and Induserve Supply.
Ainsworth settles OSB lawsuit
Canadian wood products manufacturer Ainsworth has become the second defendant to opt out of a U.S. class action lawsuit against oriented strand board (OSB) producers by agreeing to an $8.6 million settlement. In a prepared statement released on Oct. 19, the company stressed that it denies “each and every one of the plaintiffs’ claims and strongly asserts that it has not violated U.S. antitrust or any other laws.” The decision to enter into the settlement “was solely based on the need to avoid prolonged, expensive litigation,” the statement said.
The antitrust case, filed in February 2006 and granted class action status on Aug. 3, alleges that OSB manufacturers began conspiring together in 2002 to artificially reduce the supply and inflate the prices of OSB. Other defendants named in the lawsuit are Louisiana-Pacific, Weyerhaeuser, Norbord Industries, Potlatch, Tolko Industries and Grant Forest Products.
J.M. Huber has also agreed to a settlement, agreeing to pay $2 million to individuals or businesses that purchased OSB from June 1, 2002, to March 5, 2007. All settlements will be held in escrow until the entire case is resolved.
In a statement filed with the court, Huber also denied the charges but cited the expense and distraction of litigation as its reason for exiting the case.