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Spec Sheet

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Arrivals, departures. BlueLinx has hired Dave Heine, the former vp-retail development at Do it Best, as a senior national account executive, where he will call on Do it Best accounts and other independent dealers. Heine left Do it Best after 28 years, serving in a number of positions. West Fraser Timber named Larry Hughes as its new senior vp. Hughes has served as lead legal counsel to West Fraser for the past 10 years, overseeing mergers and acquisitions. Composite decking manufacturer Trex has appointed Anthony Cavanna, its former CEO and current board chairman, as the company’s interim CFO while it conducts a search for a permanent CFO. Winchester, Va.-based Trex manufactures composite decking, railing and fencing. Canfor has announced the resignation of its CFO and vp-finance, Scott Wilson, who will remain in his current roles until a replacement is named.

New market. Toll Brothers will enter the Atlanta Metro market with a 311-unit project in Cherokee County, on approximately 200 acres near downtown Woodstock, Ga. The luxury home builder, headquartered in Horsham, Pa., said it will continue its expansion in the Southeast, where it currently operates communities in Florida, North Carolina and South Carolina. It now operates in 22 states.

Gypsum demand. A surge in residential construction in Mexico will help grow the gypsum board market over the next several years, according to a Freedonia Group research report. Gains will benefit from Mexican government initiatives to relieve the nation’s housing deficit, as well as further market penetration of construction methods that utilize gypsum board. Overall, the demand for drywall in North America is projected to grow through 2011 by 3 percent per year to $6 billion.

Lowered outlook. Fitch Ratings lowered its forecast of total U.S. housing starts for 2007 to 1.30 million, down from 1.46 million in the beginning of the summer, based on a “more severe and longer lasting” downturn than previously anticipated. Compared to 2006, the revised number of housing starts is a 27.8 percent decline. The global rating agency also issued a negative outlook for most publicly held U.S. home builders, including Centex, D.R. Horton, Hovnanian, KB Home, Lennar, M/I Homes, MDC Holdings, Meritage Homes, Ryland, Standard Pacific, Pulte, Tousa Homes and Toll Brothers. The only exception was NVR, a Reston, Va., home builder and mortgage banker, which received a “stable” rating.

Lone Star acquisition. Bismarck, N.D.-based MDU Resources has purchased Quality Concrete & Materials, a Beaumont, Texas, company with annual revenues of $50 million. Quality Concrete, which operates 10 ready mix concrete plants, two materials distribution yards and three pug mills in southeast and central Texas, will become part of Knife River Corp., the construction materials and mining subsidiary of MDU Resources.

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The return of a market

BY HBSDEALER Staff

San Diego Two relatively optimistic housing market forecasts factored heavily in an active day of seminars and award presentations at the ProDealer Conference held here last week.

In the conference’s kickoff presentation, Joshua Rosenbaum, director of the UBS Global Industrial Group, explained that only a matter of time stood between the current housing problems and a return to normalcy. “It really is a question of when, not if,” he said.

Of the six key macroeconomic factors — described as “pillars” — of the housing industry, five remain solid: GDP growth, interest rates, unemployment, inflation and non-residential construction spending. Housing starts, the sixth pillar, lags dramatically from 2006.

The question of “when” the return would come was addressed in detail at a later presentation on commodity pricing given by Paul Jannke, senior vp-wood and timber information for RISI. He pointed to research that predicts housing starts will remain weak until late 2008. Pointing to underlying demand created by population growth and household formation, Jannke described the overbuilding of 2003, 2004 and 2005 as a key cause of the dramatic decline in housing starts in 2007. The good news, said Jannke, is that 2009 should see starts jump back to the 1.7 million to 1.8 million level, following a 2008 housing start figure in excess of 1.5 million.

“With the weaknesses forecast in 2007 and 2008, we will have completely made up for the overbuilding” of the previous four years, he said.

If housing starts fall further to the 1 million level, as some expect, the silver lining would be a faster correction and a faster return to housing starts more in line with the underlying demand, he added.

The 11th ProDealer Conference held here at the Loews Coronado Bay Resort wasn’t all about forecasting and finance. A “Custom Builder Panel” on Thursday morning focused on the needs of custom builders and their expectations from pro dealers.

The best way to build a relationship with the custom builder is to do the research and bring solutions to the table, said David Payne, vp-Payne & Payne Builders. Sometimes, the solutions for builders address problems that they didn’t know they had, he said. “The smartest thing for a dealer is to find the time to talk to us to identify our faults, then provide solutions.”

And the panel agreed that when the relationship between the dealer and the builder loses the qualities of a partnership, the relationship is in jeopardy.

In addition, Basketball star Bill Walton, who rose to fame playing for the Boston Celtics and the Portland Trail Blazers, gave some advice on what to do “when the ball bounces the wrong way” during his Sept. 19 talk. He also reminisced about his days at Dixieline Lumber in San Diego, where the 15-year-old freckled redhead unloaded lumber as a part-time job.

Also at the conference, the annual ProDealer of the Year Awards Dinner recognized two companies that represent innovation and success in the LBM market — Kent, Ohio-based Carter Lumber and Fairfax, Calif-based Fairfax  Lumber & Hardware, the respective recipients of the ProDealer of the Year and Independent ProDealer of the Year awards.

The 11th Annual ProDealer Conference, sponsored by Home Channel News, kicked off with a City of Hope golf tournament. The first place team, winning with a score of 142, was Bruce Brushwood of Moulding & Millwork, Mark Donovan of Forest City Trading Group, Laura Dwyer of Dupont and Mike Fletcher of Moulding & Millwork.

The ProDealer Conference ran through Sept. 21.

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Toro names new member to board of directors

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Outdoor products company Toro has named Inge Thulin, vp-international operations for 3M, to its board of directors.

Thulin joined 3M in 1979 and served in various sales and marketing roles at its location in Stockholm, Sweden. He subsequently served as area vp for Europe, Asia and the Middle East and was named executive vp-international operations in 2003.

“As Toro’s revenue from non-U.S. markets continues to rise and we expand our manufacturing, design and distribution capabilities around the world, his perspectives will be invaluable in positioning the company for long-term growth and profitability,” said Michael Hoffman, chairman and CEO of Toro.

Thulin’s appointment brings the Toro board to 11 members.

Toro had sales of $1.8 billion in 2006 and is a leading provider of outdoor beautification products.

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