From lumber to the legislature
NASHVILLE, TENN. — Like most of us, Alan Clark worries about the direction of legislation and politics. Like few of us, he got himself elected to the Arkansas state senate.
Clark, the VP and chief operating officer of two-unit Clark Lumber Co. in Hot Springs, Ark., is also the state’s senator for the 13th district. He was part of a wave of recent Republican party victories in Bill Clinton’s backyard. Clark’s legislative class has the first Republican majority in the Arkansas state legislature in 138 years.
In addition to sponsoring bills, such as the Public School Choice Act of 2013, and opposing the death tax, Clark expects to be in the thick of the affordable healthcare debate as it winds through Arkansas. (“Obamacare is not the answer,” reads his campaign website.)
He credits the quality staff back in Hot Springs for allowing him to take part in state government. “It’s a part-time job, but it’s really a full-time, part-time job,” Clark said.
During the 2013 ProDealer Industry Summit held here in October, Clark told HCN he didn’t have ambitions for higher office. “But then again, I didn’t have ambitions for this office, either,” he said.
Lesson number one: Don’t keep score
Not everyone has the opportunity to work with their spouse. Pat and Susan Thorne have found a way to make it successful.
The two co-owners of three-unit Pat Thorne Lumber of Chillicothe, Mo., have discovered some ground rules that promote a healthy business.
“There are probably three things that work for us,” said Pat Thorne during his 2013 Independent Pro Dealer of the Year acceptance speech. “Number one, we don’t keep score. Number two: We don’t care who is right; we just try to get it right. And number three: we don’t take work home.”
The HCN Independent Pro Dealer of the Year award recognizes an independent dealer for community involvement, service and values. Thorne accepted the award during the ProDealer Industry Summit in Nashville, Tenn., Oct. 23.
The Thornes’ community involvement is illustrated by their participation in a recent church group mission to Mozambique, where they helped build a church in the East African country. “A truly great experience,” Thorne said.
“We feel we owe our success to our employees, our customers and our vendors,” he added. “We think it takes all three to give the business the opportunity to grow.”
Let’s get this started
Why is it taking so long for the Commerce Department to estimate housing starts?
Here we are in December, and the latest available stats date all the way back to August, when the Bureau’s estimate for total housing starts came in at a disappointing seasonally adjusted annual rate of 883,000.
The timing for the delay is particularly unfriendly. The industry is riding a recovery (see cover story). We were keeping our fingers crossed to break the million-start pace in September or October, thus boosting the morale of the industry and the market and causing a virtuous cycle of investing.
Instead, we have uncertainty wrapped by a riddle.
If the starts for September, October and November are released on Dec. 18 as planned, that adds up to a two-month delay. September starts were originally expected back on Oct. 17.
The Census Bureau blamed the two-month delay on the 16-day partial government shutdown. “The lapse in federal funding affected the data collection schedule for the Survey of Construction, the source of data on new housing units started and completed,” the Bureau said in a press release that pushed back the release date.
I know the government has bigger fish to fry with this little initiative known as the Affordable Care Act, but come on, man. A two-month delay for a 16-day shutdown seems excessive. It’s not like you don’t readjust your figures every month anyway.
The Bureau was able, however, to issue some of its residential construction data for September and October, and the results were pleasant. Both months showed gains in building permits and a 1-million-plus permits pace for October.
Still, for the second issue in a row, the HCN Industry Dashboard (see page 38) does not include housing starts figures. We swapped in building permits as a temporary fix and look forward to a return to normalcy in January.
A word on the Industry Dashboard.
When the editors of HCN back in 2011 decided to create the Industry Dashboard of leading statistics, we had a vision. Someday, somewhere, somebody would use our Dashboard in a PowerPoint presentation to industry decision-makers.
In our vision, the presentation would capture the vital statistics of this wide-ranging industry on a single slide and present HCN as a thought leader.
This dream quickly became reality in 2011, when the Dashboard was presented during a gathering of lumberyard executives at the ProDealer Industry Summit in San Antonio. However, it was my presentation, so that didn’t really count.
Cut to the 2013 Distribution America/PRO Group executive planning conference. In a meeting with Hardware Distribution Warehouses Inc. (HDW) of Shreveport, La., CEO Kenny Beauvais made the following unassisted comment: “I used your Industry Dashboard in a recent presentation.”