LUMBERYARDS

NLBMDA rallies around Innocent Sellers

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Nashville,  Tenn. — The National Lumber and Building Material Dealers Association (NLBMDA) is ramping up its efforts to promote its signature: the Innocent Sellers Act (HR 2746).

Speaking during the Washington Update presentation here at the ProDealer Industry Summit, NLBMDA CEO Michael O’Brien led a discussion on recent lobbying activity that included the deep waters of Obamacare and legislation reform.

O’Brien described the political atmosphere in Washington, D.C., as “toxic,” with few signs of improvement. The clashes over the government shutdown are likely to reemerge after the holidays, he added.

On the Innocent Sellers Act — a proposal that protects retailers from unreasonable litigation in the event a product is used incorrectly — the NLBMDA’s biggest ally is Congressman Blake Farenthold (R-TX).   

Momentum for the act was derailed partly by events in Syria and the partial government shutdown. It’s imperative, according to O’Brien, for NLBMDA members to rally support in Congress for the act, and ask them to co-sponsor the bill.

The NLBMDA set up an action center, allowing attendees of the PDIS to quickly send an Innocent Sellers email to their representatives.

EPA lead rule reform is another area of emphasis for the NLBMDA, which remains concerned over reliability of test kits and the EPA’s unwillingness to address the problem. 

The NLBMDA has a long history of objections to the EPA’s Lead: Renovation, Repair and Paintint (LRRP). It was introduced in 2010 and requires remodeling and renovation firms that perform work on pre-1978 housing to be EPA certified. And the firms must keep records of the project for three years. 

The NLBMDA supports the Lead Exposure Reduction Amendments Act, which has two key provisions: 1.) It restores an opt-out provision for homeowners in households with no pregnant women and no children; and 2.) It creates a time frame for the EPA to develop a test kit that is commercially available and meets the EPA’s own standard for false positives. 

On the topic of Obamacare, O’Brien described the administrations mishandling of online registration as “mind boggling. … They have maybe a month to get this under control.”

If the technical registration problems persist, an extension of the open enrollment period — or other more serious program changes — become possible, if not likely, he said. 

He pointed to key past and future calendar items for Obamacare:           

• Oct 1: Open enrollment began for in-state health insurance exchanges;

• Jan. 1: Individual mandate takes effect; and

• Jan. 1: Health insurance tax on fully insured plans take effect.

The employer mandate has been delayed for one year until Jan. 1, 2015.

Other key items on the NLBMDA’s Legislative Agenda include the mortgage interest deduction, the Internet sales tax/Marketplace Fairness Act, OSHA rules and NLRB rules.

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Chris Yenrick accepts the gavel as 2014 NLBMDA chairman

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Outgoing NLBMDA chairman Chuck Bankston took some time at the open of the ProDealer Industry Summit to formally pass the gavel to Chris Yenrick, who will replace him as chair in 2014.

"I hope I won’t have to use this too much," quipped Yenrick as he accepted the gavel from Bankston.

Yenrick, who is president of Smith Phillips Building Supply in Winston-Salem, N.C., stressed the importance of succession planning, grassroots activism and pulling younger generations into the aging industry.

"We need to find young people to replace [older grassroots advocates] and fight for our place on the Hill," he said. "I want to make sure that this business is viable for [my son] down the road."

Yenrick recounted his own entry into the industry, which began when he ended his military service and took a job at a lumberyard through his father-in-law. It felt like a natural fit, he said, so it came as no surprise when he discovered that his grandfather had also worked at a lumberyard. "It was in my blood," he said.

Yenrick highlighted the organization’s ongoing efforts to pass the Innocent Sellers Protection Act, its success in passing the exemption in the OSHA crane law, its work with Habitat for Humanity and the Helping a Hero program, and his intentions to continue strengthening the association’s relationship with the NAHB.

"I look forward to working through the NLBMDA to increase the awareness and involvement of independent and national chain dealers to present a strong and united front to advocate for business conditions that will be conducive to our long-term success," said Yenrick in a statement. "Lumberyards and our industry have a time-honored tradition of serving a vital role in the American dream of home-ownership. NLBMDA is our voice to help preserve that role into the future."

Yenrick has previously served at the federal level with NLBMDA, and regionally with the Southern Building Material Association.

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Expert sees positive signs, still

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Nashville, Tenn. — A few months ago, John Burns described himself as a raging optimist. Today he’s just an optimist.

That was one of the observations from the real estate consultant’s presentation at the ProDealer Industry Summit. The fundamentals of the housing recover are solid, he said. But in the sales office, sales and bargains and price drops surged in September. A survey showed 10% of builders surveyed dropped prices, from zero in the previous month. 

So much of the real estate market, of course, is regional. And the top three regions showing real estate strength are northern Florida, the Southwest and Southern California.

"I think the future for this industry looks bright," Burns said. The industry has moved ahead of retail distress and is looking ahead to normal levels of resale activity as construction increases steadily.

"Demand, supply and affordability fundamentals are solid, but trends are worth monitoring carefully," he said. 

Burns attacked a couple of ideas — especially the idea that consumers are moving back to the cities, a myth he described as extremely "overhyped." The growth of the urban core, he estimated, as a mere 5% of overall housing growth. "The big growth is still in the suburbs." 

Burns also suggested that people should ignore reports that smaller houses are gaining momentum. The reality is consumers want bigger houses, he said, and builders are naturally incentivized to build big houses. 

The ProDealer Industry Summit, sponsored jointly by HCN and the National Lumber and Building Material Dealers Association, concludes Oct. 25.  

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