News Developments – October 2021

Oct Issue

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Third Bench Holdings and New America Energy Corp. Merge

New America Energy Corp., headquartered in Alpharetta, GA, a publicly traded corporation looking for acquisitions, recently merged with Third Bench Holdings, which has, among its subsidiaries, OGB Architectural Millwork. OGB, located in Albuquerque, NM, manufactures mostly commercial applications of custom millwork along with standard product lines. OGB manufactures its millwork only in the United States, using such solid U.S. Hardwoods as Beech, Birch, Poplar, Red and White Oak, Hemlock and Maple.

Third Bench, headquartered in Albuquerque, has about 140 employees, according to Third Bench CEO David Fair. Third Bench’s revenue for 2020 was almost $19 million. According to a company press release, Third Bench was formed in 2019 with a goal of consolidating fragmented sectors of the construction industry to become a leading national provider of cabinetry and related products.

The combined companies will eventually take on the name Third Bench, stated Jeffrey M. Canouse, CEO of New America Energy Corp.

For more information, go to www.thirdbench.com

Wellborn Expands 

Wellborn Cabinet Inc., headquartered in Ashland, AL, recently announced a groundbreaking and expansion of their facilities here.  This expansion will create more than 200 jobs for Clay County and the surrounding area. 

CEO Paul Wellborn said, “With the help of our local, state, and federal officials along with our local schools, we’ve been blessed with the ability to have this expansion and have the opportunity to add these jobs to our economy. I thank God for all the people who’ve played a part in growing our American-made product. We are especially thankful for all of our dedicated employees who have helped make all of this possible.”

More than $15 million has been invested into the United States and Alabama economies by Wellborn Cabinet. With that, Wellborn has expanded over 175,000 total square feet into their facility to include additional daycare options, healthcare capabilities, and improved its manufacturing facilities. 

 Wellborn Cabinet employs nearly 1,400 workers from the region. Following this expansion, the region will benefit from the addition of 200 additional jobs.

For more information, go to www.wellborn.com.

AHF Products Introduces Dogwood™ Densified Wood

AHF Products, located in Mountville, PA, recently introduced Dogwood™ densified wood flooring featuring a groundbreaking, patent-pending process that creates “densified wood,” a pure 100 percent natural wood floor that is resistant to scratches, gouges and dents – and pet nails and accidents. 

Scratch and dent damage caused by dogs is a leading reason why homeowners think they can’t have Hardwood floors. Not anymore, said President and CEO Brian Carson, AHF Products. “Dogwood Densified Wood lets you enjoy real Hardwood floors that are virtually worry-free.” 

The engineers at AHF Products have taken real wood, made by nature, and made it even better by more than doubling its density, with a natural, patent-pending process of heat and pressure.  

“This is 100 percent real wood – not a laminate surface,” said Carson. 

Flooring with new Dogwood™ technology, which is made in Somerset, KY, is being introduced under the Bruce® brand with new lines in progress for other leading brands under the AHF Products umbrella, including Hartco® and Robbins®. 

Species include Densified Hickory, Densified Red Oak and Densified Walnut.

For information visit bruce.com/dogwood

Builder Confidence at 13-Month Low on Higher Material Costs, Home Prices

Higher construction costs and supply shortages along with rising home prices has pushed builder confidence to its lowest reading since July 2020, according to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB)/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI) released recently. Builder sentiment in the market for newly built single-family homes fell five points to 75 in August, the latest month for which data was available. (NAHB is headquartered in Washington, D.C.)

“Buyer traffic has fallen to its lowest reading since July 2020 as some prospective buyers are experiencing sticker shock due to higher construction costs,” said NAHB Chairman Chuck Fowke. “Policymakers need to find long-term solutions to supply-chain issues.”

“While the demographics and interest for home buying remain solid, higher costs and material access issues have resulted in lower levels of home building and even put a hold on some new home sales,” said NAHB Chief Economist Robert Dietz. “While these supply-side limitations are holding back the market, our expectation is that production bottlenecks should ease over the coming months and the market should return to more normal conditions.”

Derived from a monthly survey that NAHB has been conducting for 35 years, the NAHB/Wells Fargo HMI gauges builder perceptions of current single-family home sales and sales expectations for the next six months as “good,” “fair” or “poor.” The survey also asks builders to rate traffic of prospective buyers as “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 conditions as good than poor.

The HMI index gauging current sales conditions fell five points to 81 and the component measuring traffic of prospective buyers also posted a five-point decline to 60. The gauge charting sales expectations in the next six months held steady at 81.

For more information, go to www.nahb.org.

NKBA Report Projects Industry-Wide Growth Despite Ongoing Supply Chain and Labor Problems 

 The National Kitchen & Bath Association, located in Hackettstown, NJ – a non-profit trade association for the kitchen and bath industry providing tools, research, certification, and events to thousands of professionals – and John Burns Real Estate Consulting (JBREC) recently released its quarterly Kitchen & Bath Market Index (KBMI) for the second quarter of 2021, which is the most current data available. With estimates showing an 11 percent growth in sales for Q2 vs. Q1, the report suggests continued growth in the kitchen and bath market, despite ongoing material shortages and rising labor costs. 

“We’re encouraged by the findings from our report on the kitchen and bath industry, which reaffirms the longer outlook of the field as one of growth and strong earnings,” said Bill Darcy, NKBA CEO. “While we are seeing the continued delay of materials and increase in labor costs causing problems and concerns within the sector, it also shows that the sky-rocketing demand for remodeling projects has continued. In fact, the industry is experiencing an increased interest in higher-end products as consumers are spending more time than ever in their homes due to the ongoing pandemic and are prioritizing comfort and luxury, particularly when it comes to kitchen and bath improvements.”

 The COVID-19 pandemic has continued to have significant impact on the supply-chain and material development industries, causing widespread challenges to all sectors of the economy. The kitchen and bath industry is no different as the field has seen “double-digit” price increases across common kitchen and bath products, while labor rates have increased an additional 10 to 19 percent in an effort to retain talent within the industry. All of these factors have put strain on the consumer budget. 

Despite these hurdles, there is a clear demand for remodeling services as 60 percent of designers have reported a backlog of at least three-months. Additionally, in Q2 2021, 55 percent of the building and construction industry reported zero projects cancelled, a stark contrast from the previous quarter. Furthermore, despite an increase in material costs, nearly half of retailers (46 percent) have begun to see a shift in typical price points demanded by customers with 89 percent saying their customers are shifting toward the pricier, higher end finishes. 

Among the report’s key findings:

  • Labor Challenges Persist: As the qualified labor pool continues to shrink with early retirement and career changes, building and construction companies scramble to incentivize their current workforce. Eighty percent of companies report increasing labor rates to retain employees – with nearly two-thirds reporting rising rates of as much as 19 percent. This continues to increase the overall price of the project and delay the timeframes of planned remodels. However, clients continue to move forward with projects and are willing to pay for products and finishes in demand. 
  • COVID-19’s Impact Lessens: While industry experts and professionals keep a watchful eye on the progression of the Delta variant of the coronavirus, members reported a significant drop in the pandemic’s impact on business, giving it a score of 4.9 out of 10, where 0 is no impact at all and 10 is a significant impact – down significantly from around 6 the previous three quarters. 
  • More Record Indices: An 82.3 overall KBMI score topped the previous all-time record 79.8 from Q1. Current conditions of 85.7 shattered last quarter’s record 78, and is miles ahead of the 59.8 from Q4 2020. Future conditions are flashing warning signals though, as price hikes and lead times are beginning to take a toll. Many members are becoming creative, ordering months in advance to circumvent lead times and lessen the sting of price hikes.

NKBA reports that while there is optimism about the future of the industry, there are still a few challenges the industry continues to face including the potential threat of the Delta variant of the coronavirus. However, the outlook toward the industry’s future is positive as consumers are content to wait out and postpone projects rather than cancelling altogether, signaling continued growth for the sector as the year progresses.

For more information, go to www.nkba.org.

By Miller Wood Trade Publications

The premier online information source for the forest products industry since 1927.

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