Political realism presides at PDIS
Charleston, S.C. — The NLBMDA isn't looking at the current November election forecast with an overly subjective lens. Though 66% of its members are casting their ballots for Trump this year, the association's Washington Town Hall presentation that took place at the 2016 ProDealer Industry Summit on Wednesday was rooted in the premise that the odds are not in Trump's favor at the moment.
As moderator (and VP of legislative and political affairs) Ben Gann put it, Trump currently has two challenges: winning all of the states that aren't completely in the bag for him right now, and then winning another state where he's not currently leading in the polls.
What's more, some of those battleground states are not traditional swing states.
"I don't think anybody even a month ago would have predicted that Arizona is now a tossup," he said. "Utah, which is one of the most reliably Republican states, is now a lean-Republican state. Trump is particularly unpopular in Utah."
Some more realities the association is grappling with: If Trump loses the popular vote, it's unlikely that Republicans will keep the Senate. That would require a lot of split tickets in a political environment that's become increasingly polarized over the last 16 years.
The effect of the Trump campaign on the rest of the Republican establishment was lamented at the panel. Scott Yates, president of Denver Lumber Company, noted that the Nancy Pelosi Super PAC has been going after two Republican candidates by linking them to Trump.
"We've spent so many years and a lot of effort to make [him] someone we can rely on," he said. "He's a real standup guy, so it's painful to watch."
As it stands, Republicans currently have an 8-seat advantage in the Senate and a comfortable majority in the House, but the majority promises to be tighter next year.
If Clinton wins, Gann said, Democrats would need a minimum of 4 seats in the Senate to get to 50, and then VP Tim Kaine would break that tie. They're confident about one of those seats, so it really comes down to who will win 3 of 5 seats in New Hampshire, Indiana, Nevada, Pennsylvania and North Carolina.
In order for Democrats to take control of the House, they would need to net 30 seats, and Gann doesn't believe there are enough competitive seats for them this cycle.
To this end, Gann said: “Keep in mind we’re electing a president, not a dictator or an emperor."
Moving forward, LBM dealers will be working within the new framework next year — whatever it may be — to address the issues that are most important to dealers, like excessive government, healthcare costs, jobs and taxes.
One of the biggest pain points for the LBM industry at the moment is the new overtime rule, for example.
Chris Yenrick, president and COO of Smith Phillips Building Supply, believes advocacy will continue to be vital in this regard.
"We have to be vocal and let them know [how we feel], because when we first started bringing up the issue, Ben went to the Hill and said they’re not really hearing from anyone," he said. "They started hearing from people, and now you see some movement."
“For them to come up with a rule to willy-nilly double the amount and make it one size fits all was a bad thing," added Yates. "The fight that we’re putting up, I'll fight on behalf of every dealer in this nation. If we don’t put up this fight, they’ll win this fight and go on to the next battle, and the next thing they come up with could be as bad or worse than overtime.”
Offering a counterpoint was Harold Baalman, president and CEO of B&B Lumber Company.
"The reason this whole thing came about is because we as employers abused the system," he said. "Some guys are paying their workers $25,000 a year and work them 60 hours a week."
Baalman's solution to the new overtime rule involves dividing workers' current salaries into an hourly rate. At that point, "it's a wash," he said.
Old houses, new trends at Industry Summit
Charleston, S.C. — Kevin O'Connor stepped into his role as keynote speaker at the 2016 ProDealer Industry Summit with the same folksy charm he brings to his role on television as the host of "This Old House," the nation's longest-running home improvement show.
And he brought with him observations about what has been happening in the home renovation world, as well as what's not happening.
For instance — despite what you might have seen across the spectrum of television home show entertainment — tree houses and tiny homes aren't very popular.
And O'Connor added: "People doing the work renovating houses are generally not good looking twins, or women in tank tops. They are people who look like you in a lot of flannel."
Having debunked those home industry concepts, O'Connor shared building industry observations from his 13 years on the show bolstered by research on home trends.
Size of the house is steadily growing. "We found people want their house to be as big as they can afford." He pointed to statistics showing the average American home measured about 1,000 sq. ft. in 1950, and jumped to 2,300 sq. ft. in 2000. And despite some give and take, the figure has generally increased since then.
On the topic of prefabricated or "modular," O'Connor said they have certain advantages over traditional building. But on the whole, the concept doesn't rank as a trend, he said. Rather, the vast majority of home building remains and probably will remain an exercise among small groups of tradesmen at a job site. At the same time, the concept of prefabricated components — long popular in the form of pre-hung doors and windows — is spreading to other areas of the house. The idea is to relieve the contractor of extra steps or simplify the on-site tasks.
And in response to a question from the audience about computer hacks on smart home devices, O'Connor said connectivity will increase regardless: "Connectivity's benefits will outweigh the negative. And I don't think there's a way to put the genie back in the bottle."
Other observations from the co-host of "This Old House":
- Home owners desire white kitchens. "We're almost always installing a white kitchen cabinet, unless the designer talks the homeowner out of it."
- Islands are the new king of the kitchen.
- While renovations usually start with the kitchen, pantries and mud rooms are the two most requested rooms.
- There is huge and growing emphasis in shower upgrades.
- Rustic and reclaimed is a big trend — think barn doors. It's rare for an entire house to adopt this style. One layer, or one spot, is usually all it takes.
- PVC, composites and fibers as alternatives to wood are gaining acceptance from homeowners. All new houses have at least some of these materials, he said.
- Energy efficiency is coming to the American home by code, not by consumer choice. And while green building makes a great story for the media, the actual adoption is not there. "Does it exist? Yes. Is it a trend? I would argue no," he said.
- Along those lines, O'Connor cautioned against taking to heart what is being broadcast across the explosion of home improvement entertainment shows.
"We tell people things that are new and exciting, and sometimes they are new and exciting only to us," he said.
Slide show: All decked out in Baltimore
Throngs of contractors, builders and remodelers converged in Baltimore this week to take a look at what the expo floor had to offer.
At the Remodeling Show/DeckExpo/JLC LIVE, together known as R|D|J, industry pros were served an appealing array of decking products and building materials, which were brought to life with hands-on product demonstrations and how-to seminars.
Here’s a few snapshots from the HBSDealer camera.