SHORT CUTS

HOUSING STARTS DECLINE IN JUNE

Housing starts in June decreased from the high levels posted earlier this year, according to figures released by the U.S. Commerce Department. Overall, the June construction rate was just above 1.8 million units, down 8.5 percent from May's upwardly revised rate of 1.97 million.

“A two million start rate is not sustainable, but something on the order of 1.8 million or 1.9 million is,” said Bobby Rayburn, a home and apartment builder from Jackson, Miss., and president of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). “The market fundamentals remain healthy, with strong consumer demand, lean inventories and a favorable interest rate structure.”

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Single-family housing starts fell 9.5 percent in June to 1.489 million. This was a 1.1 percent drop from the June 2003 pace, although single-family starts were up by 12.2 percent on a year-to-date basis.

Seiders expects single-family starts to post an all-time high in 2004, surpassing last year's record of 1.499 million units.

RISE RECRUITS RECORD NUMBER OF MEMBERS

RISE (Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment) recently recruited 16 new members at the annual meeting of PrimeraTurf, a purchasing cooperative for independently owned companies engaged in the distribution and resale of professional turf, horticulture and landscape products.

Representatives from RISE were invited to the meeting held in Cleveland to educate and recruit new members, a trade association that represents the specialty pesticide and fertilizer industries.

“We're pleased by the commitment 16 PrimeraTurf members have made to RISE,” says Allen James, RISE president. “This number of new members is a record for one day,” he adds.

STEEL PRICES AFFECT GREEN INDUSTRY

Almost every industry and market has felt the effects of the steel price increase throughout the first part of 2004. Equipment manufacturers are no different. These companies have taken notice and have either taken steps to fix the problem or are in the process of doing so.

Tim Cromley, marketing manager of Walker Manufacturing, says that although the company uses 10,000 to 15,000 pounds of raw steel each day, Walker has not seen a significant increase because raw steel accounts for only 10 percent of the total production costs. “The components that Walker buys in, such as engines and transmissions, are where the increase in prices really shows,” said Cromley.

Toro has made a few changes of their own to balance the rising costs of steel. “Our lean manufacturing, ‘no waste’ and productivity initiatives have enabled us to continue to improve our gross margin and offset costs for steel and aluminum so far in the fiscal year of 2004,” said Ken Melrose, CEO of Toro.

Other mower manufacturers are in the process of deciding what to do about the rising steel prices. A representative from Grasshopper said that the company was holding meetings to devise a strategic agenda to handle the rising prices.

STMA SELECTS NEW EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

The Board of Directors of the Sports Turf Managers Association (STMA) has selected Kim Heck as executive director. Heck becomes the association's first full time dedicated executive director in its 23-year history. STMA has been managed by Trusty & Associates since 1996.

STMA president Bob Campbell says, “STMA's long standing vision has always been to have its own executive director and staff. We feel that Kim can help lead us to the next level of growth for our membership and visibility for our profession.”

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