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NLBMDA holds 2008 legislative conference

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Washington, D.C. Senators, members of congress and legislative aides played host to lumberyard owners and executives from around the country this week as the National Lumber and Building Materials Dealers Association (NLBMDA) gathered here for their annual legislative conference. As in years past, the pro dealers pressed their case for relief from product liability lawsuits and skyrocketing health insurance costs. But two new issues — the recovery of the housing market and green building mandates – were added to the agenda.

Acontingent from the Northwestern Lumber Association met with Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Nebraska), while Kentucky dealers visited Sen. Mitch McConnell, a Republican from their home state. Approximately 140 dealers, hailing from Alaska to Florida, ducked in and out of congressional offices. NLBMDA members also paid a call to Indiana Senator Evan Bayh, whose father, former Indiana Senator Birch Bayh, delivered the conference’s keynote address.   

Four LBM executives from New York State crammed seven visits into one afternoon. Dean Kelly of Jay-K Independent Lumber, Robert Peterman of Peterman Lumber, Brian Rivenburgh of Strober/ProBuild and Seth Arluck of New Hampton Lumber lobbied against green building mandates that favor one type of certification or standards over another. They also urged their representatives to support the reform of the Federal Housing Administration, Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae.

“The [housing] market is not there because there’s a limited availability of [mortgage] money,” said Kelly, who operates a home center in New Hartford, N.Y.

The three-day event, which started on March 31, kicked off with a green building forum sponsored by the LBMI, the national association’s educational organization. Speakers from the Green Building Initiative, the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), Energy Star for Homes and LEED for Homes talked about their different programs and standards, drew an overflow crowd to the Ritz Carlton Hotel, where the conference is being held.

More congressional visits are scheduled for today, when NLBMDA members will seek additional co-sponsors for H.R. 989, the Innocent Sellers Fairness Act. Introduced in February 2007, the bipartisan bill will hold retailers harmless in lawsuits where they merely sell a product that later causes injuries or damage.

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ProBuild acquires Khempco Building Supply

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Denver-based ProBuild Holdings has announced the acquisition of Columbus, Ohio-based Khempco Building Supply.

The acquisition includes a lumberyard and truss facility in Delaware, Ohio; a truss plant in Dry Ridge, Ky.; and a commercial door facility in Columbus, Ohio. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

“We are pleased to welcome the employees of Khempco to ProBuild,” said Dale Kukowski, president of ProBuild North Region. “The addition of Khempco fortifies ProBuild’s position in the Ohio market while strengthening our manufacturing and installed sales capability.”

Paul Hylbert, CEO of ProBuild, added, “Growth through acquisitions remains an important element of our corporate strategy.”

Khempco Building Supply was founded in 1977.

ProBuild Holdings currently operates more than 560 lumber and building product distribution, manufacturing and assembly centers serving 42 U.S. states.

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K/BIS to kick off next week in Chicago

BY HBSDEALER Staff

The Kitchen and Bath Industry Show (K/BIS) will kick off next week in Chicago, from April 11 to 13 at McCormick Place. The event includes a conference starting one day earlier on April 10.

The show has seen an upswing in certain exhibitors, including cabinet-makers, stone surface manufacturers and tile manufacturers, according to show organizers, because of new exhibits planned in those areas. The show this year includes a cabinetry pavilion and a “Natural Stone and Tile Pavilion.”

Major retailers are homing in on kitchen and bath categories for the new year, particularly with the new interest in do-it-for-me projects. Craig Menear, executive vp-merchandising for Home Depot told company investors Feb. 26 that the company would be focusing on kitchens and bath fixtures as two categories where the company would like to build share in 2008.

At Lowe’s, the past year saw some strength in the kitchen and bath categories. President and COO Larry Stone said in the company’s fourth-quarter earnings call that, “In rough plumbing we had success with our clean air and water filtration programs.”

Additionally, Bob Hull, executive vp and CFO at Lowe’s said the company saw strength in fashion plumbing and appliances — two categories that performed above average in 2007.

“Although the slowdown has affected many of the manufacturers who are deriving much of their sales from new housing, we have found that highlighted the remodeling sector has a more promising outlook,” explained show director Cory Smith, vp-kitchen and bath for Nielsen.

Smith pointed to a market research study conducted for K/BIS that highlights the do-it-for-me category as a source of new strength. While bathroom remodeling projects are projected to fall by 14 percent in 2008, bathroom do-it-for-me projects are expected to grow by 22 percent, he said. In all, kitchen and bath do-it-for-me projects are expected to rise by 12 percent in the next year.

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