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BIFMA International

Grand Rapids, MI


Regular 98

Supplier 81

International 21

Manufacturers Reps 110

BIFMA Report

Industry's Health

"After realizing an incredible 14% growth in shipments during 1997 (eclipsing $10 billion for the first time), the industry is currently enjoying a still impressive 8% growth in shipments through September 1998," said Thomas Reardon, executive vice president of BIFMA - International. "Incoming orders are up about 5% for the first nine months as compared to the same period of 1997."


Prison Industries Furniture to be Sold on the Open Market?

Federal Prison Industry products could be sold on the open market under legislation proposed in Congress.

Rep. Bill McCollum (R-FL) introduced legislation that would:

"Allow any such prison industry to offer for sale on the open market assembled or foreign-made goods," according to language in the bill.

The legislation is not expected to be addressed in this legislative session because of the impeachment proceedings against President Bill Clinton, but McCollum vowed to reintroduced the bill next year and predicted its passage.

The bill clashes with a separate FPI reform bill introduced by Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-MI) that would take away FPI's mandatory source status that requires federal agencies to buy any goods that prisons have available or can produce.

McCollum's bill has drawn fire BIFMA - International and the American Furniture Manufacturers Assn., who predict that increased FPI sales is unfair to private business because of low labor costs and because FPI enjoys the mandatory source status. The associations say that FPI has taken more than 16,000 jobs from the private sector.

Furniture is FPI's largest and fastest growing sector. In 1997, FPI sold more than $124 million worth of furniture, an increase of 6.6% over 1996 furniture sales of $116 million. Overall, FPI sold more than $512 million in products and services in 1997 and projections are that it will top $600 million in 1999.

Furniture sales are predicted to continue to rise with the expansion of FPI's systems furniture program. These sales are projected to increase to more than $130 million by 2000, up from $70.5 million in 1995.

Through the first six months of 1998 the Southeastern states and the North Central region had experienced the largest shipments growth, while the Northeast had the slowest growth.

1999 Outlook

"The variance between the growth rate of incoming orders (5%) and shipments (8%) is primarily due to the large backlog of unfilled orders present at the beginning of this year. Once the unfilled order backlog drops back to traditional levels, shipments growth should approximate orders growth at about 5%," Reardon said.

"The recent drops in interest rates have already been factored into the forecast model and are reflected in our projections," Reardon said.

Industry Issues

"BIFMA is working with the EPA on development of a Metal Furniture Coatings Rule. We will continue to work to ensure a reasonable rule is created under the Clean Air Act's requirements that addresses environmental concerns without putting the economic health of companies or workers in jeopardy," Reardon said.

While the goal is the same as the negotiations were for the wood finishing regulations, the agency's approach has changed. EPA has the final say on how the rule will be crafted.

1998 Accomplishment

"Probably one of the biggest accomplishments was that BIFMA recently hosted the first meeting in 20 years of an ISO Subcommittee for Office Furniture standards," said Reardon. "BIFMA intends to play an active leadership role in the setting of world furniture standards."

BIFMA has been instrumental in promoting work on office furniture standards within the international community. In May, BIFMA representatives attended a meeting of the International Standards Organization Technical Committee 136 in Sweden and in November it hosted the first North American meeting of the ISO Technical Committee.

BIFMA also continued its work to level the playing field with the Federal Prison Industry. "We are also very pleased to have introduced legislation in the US House of Representatives, with 81 co-sponsors, that would have eliminated FPI's mandatory source status, and to have had this legislation seriously discussed," Reardon said.

1998 Goal

"We have several goals for next year," Reardon said. "Ergonomics in the office is an issue that will get increased attention. BIFMA is a stakeholder in OSHA's process aimed at addressing ergonomics from the federal level. We are also working with the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society on the revision of their standard.

"We also plan to make electronic versions of our standards available and to incorporate several new features into a 'members only' section of our Web site," he said.

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