Construction Trends

April 2007

USG Corporation Announces Two West Coast Growth Initiatives
USG Corporation, Chicago, announced Feb. 26 two growth initiatives to expand its presence in the Western United States. The company’s United States Gypsum Company subsidiary will build a new Sheetrock® brand gypsum panel manufacturing plant in Stockton, Calif. In addition, L&W Supply, the company’s specialty distribution subsidiary, has entered into an agreement to acquire California Wholesale Material Supply, Inc. (Calply) for $280 million, including debt to be repaid at closing.

The new low-cost wallboard plant will utilize state-of-the-art technology to position the company competitively to meet long-term West Coast demand for wallboard. The $220 million plant is expected to commence operations in 2010.

The new wallboard facility will use 100 percent recycled paper for the surfaces of the finished wallboard products and recycle 100 percent of its production waste.

Calply is a building materials distribution company with annual sales approaching $600 million, 30 operating locations in seven Western states and Mexico and almost 900 employees. The acquisition has been approved by USG’s board of directors, but remains subject to usual and customary regulatory reviews and other customary closing conditions.

Hunter Douglas Acquires 3Form
Hunter Douglas, Upper Saddle River, N.J., has acquired 3form. Headquartered in Salt Lake City, 3form manufactures environmentally friendly, high-design resin panels for architectural applications.

3form had sales of $48 million in 2006 and employs 310 people. Management will remain unchanged. The company will continue to operate independently, under its own brand name.

Allied Building Products, Sika Form Distribution Alliance
Allied Building Products Corp., East Rutherford, N.J., announced Feb. 19 that it has agreed to begin distributing Lyndhurst, N.J.–based Sika Corporation’s line of sealants, epoxies, concrete repair mortars, waterproofing materials and coating products. Sika’s products will be sold directly to multiple professional contracting trades throughout the tri-state area via Allied Building Products network of 42 branch locations.

NAOSH Week Is May 6–12
The American Society of Safety Engineers sponsors the annual North American Occupational Safety and Health Week. In 2007 it runs from May 6 through May 12, 2007, with national Occupational Safety and Health Professional Day scheduled for May 9. This year’s theme is transportation safety—in vehicles, planes, commercial vehicles and more.

The purpose of NAOSH Week is to focus the attention of employers, employees and the general public on the importance of preventing injury and illness in the workplace and its positive affects on everyone’s quality of life and a business’s bottom line. Activities will take place throughout North America.

For more information and tools, go to www.asse.org/naosh or ASSE customer service at customerservice@asse.org.

Builder Confidence Slips in March
Builder confidence in the market for new single-family homes receded in March, largely on concerns about deepening problems in the subprime mortgage arena, according to the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index, released March 19. After rising fairly steadily since its recent low last September, the HMI declined three points from a downwardly revised 39 reading in February to 36 in March.

"Builders are uncertain about the consequences of tightening mortgage lending standards for their home sales down the line, and some are already seeing effects of the subprime shakeout on current sales activity,” said NAHB Chief Economist David Seiders. "The fundamentals of today’s housing market still are relatively strong, including a favorable interest-rate structure, solid growth in employment and household income, lower energy prices and improving affordability in much of the single-family market—due in part to price cuts and non-price sales incentives offered by builders. NAHB continues to forecast modest improvements in home sales during the balance of 2007, although the problems in the mortgage market increase the degree of uncertainty surrounding our baseline (i.e., most probable) forecast.”

Derived from a monthly survey that NAHB has been conducting for 20 years, the NAHB/Wells Fargo HMI gauges builder perceptions of current single-family home sales and sales expectations for the next six months as either "good,” "fair” or "poor.” The survey also asks builders to rate traffic of prospective buyers as either "high to very high,” "average” or "low to very low.” Scores for each component are then used to calculate a seasonally adjusted index where any number over 50 indicates that more builders view sales conditions as good than poor. All three component indexes registered declines in March after having risen in the previous month. The index gauging current single-family home sales and the index gauging sales expectations for the next six months each declined three points, to 37 and 50, respectively. Meanwhile, the index gauging traffic of prospective buyers declined a single point, to 28.

Regionally, the HMI results were somewhat mixed. In the Midwest and West, the index gained one point to 28 and 36, respectively. In the Northeast, the HMI declined two points to 41, and in the South, it fell four points to 40.

Employment Survey Finds Hint of Restraint in U.S. Hiring Plans
In the United States, employers plan to tone down hiring activity during the second quarter of 2007, according to the seasonally adjusted results of the latest Manpower Employment Outlook Survey, conducted quarterly by Manpower Inc., Milwaukee.

"A look at the last three quarters of survey data suggests that employers are shifting into neutral when it comes to hiring,” said Jeffrey A. Joerres, chairman and CEO of Manpower Inc. "Companies expect to coast through the next three months without much growth in the way of staff. It is a subtle change that may not yet be perceived in the job market, however it is a break from the three plus years of nearly unchanged hiring plans.”

Of the 14,000 U.S. employers surveyed, 28 percent expect to increase payrolls during the second quarter of 2007, while 7 percent expect to trim staff levels. Fifty-nine percent expect no change in the hiring pace, and 6 percent are undecided about their hiring plans.

The seasonally adjusted survey results show that employers are more likely to maintain or reduce staffing activity rather than ramp-up hiring. Employers in Durable and Non-Durable Goods Manufacturing, Education and Public Administration sectors express similar hiring intentions for the first and second quarters of 2007. Mining, Construction, Wholesale/Retail Trade and Services employers are less confident about hiring than they were in the first quarter, while Transportation/Public Utilities and Finance/Insurance/Real Estate hiring managers foresee improved job prospects during the spring months.

Power & Hand Tool Demand to Exceed $14 Billion by 2011
Power and hand tool demand in the United States is projected to rise 3.1 percent annually through 2011, reaching $14.3 billion. Advances will result from product innovations, especially the development of higher-voltage lightweight cordless electric tools. In addition, gains will result from continued interest in DIY and hobby activities in the consumer market, especially among women. The development of new consumer-friendly battery powered tools, such as wrenches and clamps, will spur gains. Rising nonresidential building and nonbuilding expenditures will also create opportunities.

But weak residential construction activity (including an outright decline in new housing starts) will limit gains. A flat outlook for construction and manufacturing employment will also dampen growth. Despite rising demand, production of power and hand tools in the United States will remain flat, as producers expand offshore production in lower cost nations such as China. These and other trends are presented in Power & Hand Tools, a new study from The Freedonia Group, Inc., a Cleveland-based industry research firm.

Power tool demand is forecast to outpace hand tool demand due to the continuing popularity of cordless electric products such as saws, sanders, polishers and grinders. Hand tool demand is limited by the inherent durability of these products. Unlike power tools, common household tools such as hammers frequently outlive their owners, dampening replacement demand. In addition, product innovation is less common than in power tools, limiting opportunities for value gains.

Cordless products will continue to post the best gains, benefiting not only from macroeconomic factors but from their performance advantages vis-a-vis plug-in models. The development of improved battery technology, such as lithium-ion chemistry, will encourage both consumers and professionals to use cordless technology.

Professional users accounted for more than two-thirds of overall tool demand in 2006. Professionals use a greater variety of tools, most of which are also more expensive than those used by consumers. However, growth in consumer tool demand will outpace the professional segment, benefiting from the ongoing popularity of do-it-yourself activities and the trade-up by consumers to feature-laden power tools.

Power & Hand Tools is available for $4,500 by contacting Corinne Gangloff at (440) 684.9600.

People & Companies in the News
Negwer Materials Inc., St. Louis, Mo., has promoted Greg Lohman to shipping and receiving coordinator in its St. Louis office. In his new position, Lohman expedites all shipping and receiving and customer orders for Negwer’s St. Louis yard. Additionally, he oversees material transfers for all Negwer yard locations.

Milwaukee Electric Tool Corporation, Brookfield, Wis., was presented with Grainger’s prestigious Partners in Performance Award for 2006 at Grainger’s annual supplier conference held March 14 in Rosemont, Ill. Grainger, a broad line supplier of facilities maintenance products serving businesses and institutions throughout North America, presents the award annually to a select group of suppliers for outstanding performance throughout the year.

Hyde Tools, Inc., Southbridge, Mass., has expanded its product development department and hired Corey M. Talbot as director of new product development. He is charged with developing and managing all new and existing product lines for the retail, industrial and distribution channels where HYDE® holds brand leadership.

Product Development Manager Rick Farland has assumed the new position of director of product engineering. In his new role, Farland will work with the product development, finance, manufacturing and purchasing departments to tap global market resources and ensure that Hyde’s products are highly competitive in both quality and price.

Dietrich Metal Framing, Columbus, Ohio, has obtained three key code endorsements for its UltraSteel® framing product: UltraSteel® received approval from Architectural Testing, Inc. in Code Compliance Research Report CCRR 0109, and from the International Code Conference Evaluation Services (ICC-ES), Report ESR-1977, which certify that the product is a compliant building product and is approved for construction use even when not specifically named in existing codes. Also, the American Society for Testing and Materials International adjusted the language in standard C645, Standard Specification for Nonstructural Steel Framing Members, so that it now verifies the product complies with the specification and is not required to meet the 0.0179" minimum thickness that all generic studs must meet.

Chicago Metallic Corporation, Chicago, has promoted Ed Williams to director of sales for its North American division with responsibilities that include driving growth and leading the national sales team. Williams joined CMC in 2004 as marketing manager for its grid systems, and in 2005 moved into the position of West Coast regional sales manager. His most recent position was that of manager of business development. In his new role as director of sales, Williams will maintain the business development function and set strategic direction for growth.