At STAFDA, products and politics
Phoenix — Maybe Sarah Palin’s appearance had nothing to do with the spike in attendance, but nearly 4,000 people gathered here at the Phoenix Convention Center for STAFDA’s annual convention, a 17% increase over last year’s attendance. Members of the Specialty Tools & Fasteners Distributors Association (STAFDA) gave the former governor of Alaska a warm welcome before, during and after her keynote speech on Nov. 8, which covered the devaluation of the dollar, government overspending, a “massive tax hike” expected on Jan. 1 and President Obama’s healthcare plan, among other topics.
“Obama took a government that was already too big and he supersized it,” said Palin, who has become a visible face of the Tea Party movement. But the self-described “hockey mom from Wasilla” also told the audience she buys most of her husband’s presents in hardware stores.
“I look out there, and I see a whole bunch of Todds,” Palin said.
Incoming STAFDA president Mike Kangas, the president of Alaska Industrial Hardware — who also happens to be from Wasilla — talked about the several billion dollars in infrastructure spending approved by the Obama administration on Labor Day, saying that many distributors are not staffing up because they’re uncertain when those public works projects will begin. “Most STAFDA members would agree that [business] can show signs of recovery one month and turn stone cold the next,” he said.
Max “Andy” Johnson, president of Mar-Mac Wire in McBee, S.C., spoke about the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act of 2009 (ARRA) and its effect on U.S. manufacturers. Although “the marketplace is [still] sorting it out,” he said, Johnson observed that the “Buy American” provision of the ARRA has helped business. “There are projects across the country that are ARRA compliant,” Johnson said. “[We] have noticed a change in the ordering process.”
Political discussions percolated through the convention hall, where Marvin Anderson, president of Coilhose Pneumatics, was exhibiting at his 10th STAFDA show. He observed that this year’s event seemed livelier. “I feel like there’s a little more optimism,” Anderson said, attributing it, in part, to the Nov. 2 election returns. “I think business people like a divided government,” he explained.
First-time exhibitor Tim Fitzpatrick of Michigan Industrial Tools said his company is branching out from DIY and homeowner sales into pro and industrial users with its Goodyear-branded rubber air hose reel. “A lot of STAFDA is a new market for us, but they all need hose,” Fitzpatrick.said.
Some vendors unveiled new products at the three-day event, which ends Nov. 9. Generac, a company mostly known for generators, showcased a new line of pressure washers. The company has designed six models to cover both the consumer and commercial markets. The products will hit the market in spring 2011.
Empire Level took the opportunity to show off the mahogany and brass levels from American Level Brands, which it acquired last May from M-D Building Products. Empire also displayed its DeWalt-branded box levels, which it has been shipping since February.
Slowdown predicted by cement industry economist
The latest economic forecast from the Portland Cement Association (PCA) indicates no growth in cement consumption for the rest of 2010, followed by a small increase next year.
The Skokie, Ill., trade association said that the “economic momentum that was gathering steam early in the year has dissipated to a large extent,” resulting in a predicted 0.3% rise in cement consumption in 2010. Next year the consumption of cement should grow by 1.4%, the organization said, with a 4% increase expected in 2012. A period of sustained growth is forecasted for 2013 and beyond.
“Unfortunately, future gains in construction activity are dictated by labor conditions today,” said Edward Sullivan, PCA’s chief economist. “Slow job growth leads to slower home purchases and start activity. It undermines the speed at which state deficits can heal impacting public construction, and implies low occupancy rates for the non-residential market.”
While small percentage gains could characterize each of these segments during the next two years, substantive cement consumption volume gains are unlikely to materialize until 2013, the PCA said. This implies a phase of cement consumption reflecting only modest growth for the near term.
Blagojevich witness arrested for shoplifting
Rajinder Bedi, 58, was allegedly seen by employees at the North Lincoln Home Depot store in Chicago concealing items valued at $166. Given the total value of the merchandise, Bedi may be charged with felony retail theft, which has a $150 threshold.
Bedi, who once held the position of managing director of the state’s Office of Trade and Investment in Blagojevich’s administration, testified under immunity in July about the ex-governor’s alleged efforts to sell President Obama’s former Senate seat.
Prosecutors said Bedi met with Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. and a major Jackson fundraiser, Raghuveer Nayak, at a Chicago restaurant. At the meeting, Nayak promised to raise $1 million for Blagojevich if he appointed Jackson to the Senate seat, prosecutors said.
Blagojevich was convicted of lying to the FBI last summer, but the jury deadlocked on other counts. His retrial is scheduled to start next year.