Topcon Technology Roadshow Hits Northern Illinois

As part of a 24-stop North American tour, the Topcon Technology Roadshow visited Wilmington, Ill., located just south of Joliet—approximately 55 miles from Chicago. The two-day visit—June 25th and 26th—was held on the grounds of the IUOE Local 150 Union Training Center and was hosted by Positioning Solutions Company, Carol Stream, Ill., an authorized Topcon dealer.

6L4A2525ext copy 2“It was an awesome opportunity for construction and survey customers to see everything in one spot,” said Ed McCaffery, marketing director with Positioning Solutions Company. “From my observations and interactions, it was clear to me that contractors were surprised by the breath of the offering, enjoyed the hands-on exhibits both in the trailer and on the grounds, and they were intrigued with some of the new technologies that were demonstrated.”

Outdoor-Presentation-Areas_Overview copyThe Technology Roadshow displays and demonstrations covered the full range of machine automation, Topcon Enterprise Solutions, BIM and 3D layout, Sitelink3D site management, GNSS and robotics, and scanning and mapping. Contractors were able to maximize their time by scheduling their visit at a convenient time and choosing which displays or demos were of interest.

Justin Smith, survey/machine control manager with K-Five Construction Corporation, Lemont, Ill., liked the opportunity to see engineers and product reps that he’s worked with. “I was able to talk directly with them and get answers to my questions and learn better ways to take advantage of the technology I have.”

Interior Presentation Areas-Overview copyThe 53-foot mobile solutions center truck showcases the latest technology for the construction, survey, civil engineering, architecture, and design industries. The information provided is designed to help contractors learn:

  • The latest tools and technologies available for the job site and office.
  • The impact of field computer technology on project data and administration.
  • The latest software technologies and the ability to improve business productivity.
  • Total job site solutions to fit any size business.

6L4A2622int copy 2“My area of knowledge and expertise is in machine control, so it was nice to have the opportunity to learn the intricacies of survey systems,” stated Dan Breunig, mechanical supervisor with The Lane Construction Corporation, Shorewood, Ill. “The Technology Roadshow was beneficial to me because I had access to Topcon experts and was able to meet other contractors.”

6L4A3154 copy 2During the two-day stop, there were contractors from Illinois and southern Wisconsin.

“All in attendance were decision-makers and key personnel with keen interest in getting as much as they could out of their time there,” McCaffery stated. “Everything is geared toward helping the contractor understand the state of our ever-changing industry and what technologies they should consider adopting to stay competitive. After all, that’s what it’s all about!”

Wells Fargo Reports: Housing Starts Hit an Air Pocket Somewhere in the South

Wells_Fargo_Securities_logoHousing starts plunged 9.3 percent in June, following a downward revision to the previous month’s data. June’s drop was primarily concentrated in the South where overall starts plummeted 29.6 percent.

Housing Starts Hit An Air Pocket Somewhere in the SouthHousing starts came in much weaker than our below-consensus forecast, and activity for May was revised down as well. While residential construction activity has clearly been disappointing, we believe the latest numbers overstate the extent of the weakness.

Housing starts rose in every region of the country except the critically important South, where they plunged 29.6 percent. The drop in the South seems odd given the region’s strong economic performance. Job and income growth have generally been robust in the South. Population growth has also increased, particularly in the region’s major markets such as Texas, Florida, Atlanta, Nashville and the Carolinas. The NAHB Homebuilders’ Survey did not detect any weakness in the South during the past few months, posting a 5-point rise in June and tacking on another 1-point rise in July. The decline in housing starts in the South is also out of proportion relative to permits, which have declined in recent months but were nearly 23.5 percent higher than starts in June. The large gap between permits and starts suggests that something is odd in the June housing starts data for the South, and that we should see a rebound in July.

Housing Starts Hit An Air Pocket Somewhere in the SouthExcluding the South, which typically accounts for half of new home construction, housing starts actually rose 14.6 percent in June. Starts increased 28.1 percent in the Midwest, 14.1 percent in the Northeast and 2.6 percent in the West. Single-family starts were mixed, however, falling 3.7 percent in the Northeast, while rising 10.5 percent in the Midwest and 3.2 percent in the West.

Even with June’s disappointing figures, overall housing starts and single-family housing starts through the first six months of 2014 are running slightly ahead of their year-ago pace. That is a sore consolation considering the disappointing housing activity in 2013. This year’s numbers, however, were held back by the harsh winter weather. The rebound from that period may have wreaked havoc with the seasonally-adjusted data. The greater problem for housing moving forward is lackluster demand for new single-family homes and shortages of lots, materials and labor in many of the strongest markets. The apartment market also appears close to topping out, with vacancy rates beginning to inch up and a multitude of projects on track to be completed in coming years. Permits for new multifamily projects fell 14.9 percent in June, following a 15.6-point plunge in May.

Housing Starts Hit An Air Pocket Somewhere in the SouthWhile it is hard to ignore June’s weak housing starts data, homebuilders do appear to be a bit more optimistic. The NAHB survey came in stronger than expected in July and builders reported both stronger current and future sales and increased buyer traffic. June’s drop in starts strikes us as odd and we expect a rebound in coming months.

Source: NAHB, U.S. Department of Commerce and Wells Fargo Securities, LLC

ABC Reports: Construction Materials Prices Inch Higher in June

CEU2“Prices for inputs to construction industries have now risen in five of the year’s first six months.” —ABC Chief Economist Anirban Basu.

PPI July 2014Overall construction materials prices increased by 0.1 percent in June and are up 1.9 percent year over year, according to the July 16 producer price index release by the U.S. Department of Labor. Nonresidential construction materials prices also expanded 0.1 percent for the month and are 1.4 percent higher than one year ago.

“Prices for inputs to construction industries have now risen in five of the year’s first six months,” said Associated Builders and Contractors Chief Economist Anirban Basu. “This marks a significant departure from the previous year’s remarkable stability. Recent monthly gains have been modest—0.1 percent in June and unchanged in May; however, the surprisingly upbeat economic news from China (Chinese GDP grew 7.5 percent in the second quarter), along with a slew of large construction starts in specific regions of the U.S., suggest that prices may continue to rise—albeit modestly— through the second half of 2014.

“A number of international conflicts could apply upward pressure on material prices,” said Basu. “The Middle East is as turbulent as ever and as construction volume increases, any supply-related disruptions could lead to a period of meaningful price inflation.

“The effects of the metal financing scandal at Qingdao port in China—the world’s seventh busiest port— are also yet to be seen,” said Basu. “In May, Chinese authorities launched an investigation into Decheng Mining, a private metals trading firm that used fraudulent warehouse receipts to obtain several loans against a single cargo of metal. As more firms take legal actual against Decheng, we simply do not know the extent to which the financing fraud will impact the metals market.”

Crude energy materials prices expanded 1.2 percent in June and are 6 percent higher than one year ago. Natural gas prices fell by 1.5 percent in June and have now fallen in three of the past four months. Overall, the nation’s wholesale goods prices expanded by 0.4 percent in June and are up 1.9 percent year over year.

The following materials prices increased in June.

Crude petroleum prices increased 3.2 percent in June and are up 5.6 percent from June 2013.

Crude energy materials prices expanded by 1.2 percent in June and are 6.0 percent higher year-over-year.

Softwood lumber prices expanded 2.3 percent and are 7.3 percent higher than one year ago.

Prices for plumbing fixtures expanded 0.4 percent in June and are up 2.4 percent on a year-over-year basis.

Concrete products prices expanded 0.4 percent in June and are up 3.5 percent on a yearly basis.

Steel mill products prices rose 0.5 percent for the month and are 4.1 percent higher than one year ago.

Five of the 11 key construction inputs did not experience price increases for the month.

Prices for prepared asphalt, tar roofing, and siding declined 1 percent for the month and are down 6.6 percent on a year-over-year basis.

Fabricated structural metal product prices remained flat for the month but have increased 1.3 percent on a year-over-year basis.

Iron and steel prices declined 0.2 percent in June but are up 4.6 percent from the same time last year.

Nonferrous wire and cable prices remained flat on a monthly basis but are down 1.6 percent from June 2013.

Natural gas prices shed 1.5 percent in June but are 12.9 percent higher than one year ago.

To view the previous PPI report, click HERE

PCA Urges: Congressional Action Needed for Proper Water Safeguards

PCALast week, Rep. Steve Southerland (R-FL) introduced Waters of the United States Regulatory Overreach Protection Act (H.R. 5078). This bipartisan legislation establishes safeguards that preserve important federal-state partnerships in protecting our nation’s waterways.

The bill is scheduled for full mark-up by the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure on Wednesday, July 16 at 10 a.m.

A proposed rule by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers would redefine “waters of the United States” and expand the scope of federal jurisdiction. Cement plants in the United States currently comply with National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits that require strict adherence to water quality guidelines. However, the proposed rule is confusing and ambiguous, and will likely add requirements to water permits. For example, an added provision in the proposed rule is that “waters of the United States” may be defined “on a case-specific basis,” and consequently, infrastructure projects and construction site developments could be delayed due to increased hydrological and geological surveys to determine jurisdictional questions.

“As proposed, the rule could undermine cement manufacturing’s long-term investment by preventing full access to limestone deposits,” Cary Cohrs, chairman of the Portland Cement Association (PCA) Board of Directors said. “Cement is vital to maintaining and building our nation’s infrastructure. The EPA and the Corps must fully consider the potential economic impacts that the proposed rule may place on the regulated community and on state and local governments as well as the construction and building sectors.”

The Waters of the United States Regulatory Overreach Protection Act will provide the proper safeguards against regulatory overreach while allowing industry the certainty necessary to improve our nation’s economy.

About PCA

Based in Washington, DC, with offices in Skokie, Illinois, and nine regions throughout the nation, the Portland Cement Association represents cement manufacturing companies in the United States. It conducts market development, engineering, research, education, and public affairs programs. More information on PCA programs is available at


ARTBA President Reacts to Congressional Developments Relating to the Highway Trust Fund

image002The following statement is from American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) President & CEO Pete Ruane:

“While we appreciate the efforts of the House Ways & Means and Senate Finance Committees to move forward this week on their respective plans to keep federal transportation funds flowing to the states, these actions must not be the latest ‘punt and leave the stadium’ strategy that has plagued the federal surface transportation program for far too long.

“The Highway Trust Fund has been limping from crisis to crisis for the past six years as America’s transportation network continues to decline.  Therefore, our message to Congress is simple: your job isn’t close to being done.

“It’s incumbent upon lawmakers in the House and Senate, and officials from the Obama Administration before the end of 2014 to develop a long-term and sustainable Highway Trust Fund solution that supports future transportation capital investments.  Anything less ignores the fragile state of our nation’s economy and does a great disservice to the tens of millions of American motorists, businesses, and workers who rely on the transportation network every day to support their livelihoods.”