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Starnet members host pre-NeoCon event

May 28/June 4, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 25

By Steven Feldman

New York—Three New York City-based Starnet commercial flooring contractors recently collaborated on a pre-NeoCon product showcase featuring about 10 Starnet vendors. Consolidated Carpet, Lane’s Floor Coverings & Interiors and Architectural Flooring Resource promoted the event, dubbed Inspiring Possibilities, which featured inspirational speaker John Maclean.

“The theme is twofold,” said Umberto Aponte, vice president of Lane’s, which spearheaded the event. “‘Inspiring’ is Maclean, and ‘possibilities’ is what Starnet and its contractors give the A&D community. Those possibilities include specification to post-installation, maintenance and everything in between throughout the continental U.S. and Hawaii.”

According to Aponte, the idea was born about a year ago at the Starnet spring meeting in San Diego, where Maclean was the keynote speaker. (Maclean is an Australian triathlete who was paralyzed in a bicycling accident when he was 22.) He subsequently became the first paraplegic to finish the Ironman World Championship and the first to swim the English Channel. In 2014, he completed the Nepean Triathlon without using a wheelchair after regaining some use of his legs through Ware K Tremor therapy. His story is one of perseverance, triumph and philanthropy to motivate others to bend their challenges into successes.

Lane Brettschneider, owner of Lane’s Floor Covering, came up with the idea to have an event in New York City with Maclean as the headliner. The idea was to get the Starnet Worldwide name further entrenched into the A&D community through a Starnet-driven event that could educate them on what Starnet members and vendors bring to the table.

About 140 members of the A&D community attended and took advantage of the opportunity to connect with higher-level executives from Starnet vendors, according to Aponte. Those that participated in the event included Tarkett, Johnsonite, Tandus Centiva, Gerflor, Milliken, Atlas, Masland, Mannington Commercial, HB Fuller and J+J.

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Starnet finds strength (and value) in numbers

April 30/May 7, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 23

By Reginald Tucker

 

Orlando—Starnet may be well regarded as the nation’s largest commercial flooring cooperative, but at its core it’s really about a family of contractors, vendors and design professionals just helping each other to not only survive in a rapidly changing environment, but also thrive in the process.

This is especially evident in today’s market—an environment that poses a mix of challenges and emerging opportunities for members. “The installation and estimating labor shortage is really impacting the industry,” Jeanne Matson, Starnet president and CEO, told FCNews during the group’s spring conference here. “While I believe our members are managing as well as any company can, I know they’re concerned the situation will get worse in the coming years.”

In this regard, Starnet is leveraging its scale, collective member knowledge and industry affiliations to come up with solutions. In fact, the group recently formed a joint task force with Fuse Alliance to focus on critical issues facing the commercial flooring industry. The task force will address long-standing industry concerns—labor shortages in estimating and installation being high on the list. By tapping into each other’s base of knowledge and resources, Starnet and Fuse can tackle a broader range of issues affecting the architecture and design industry with the goal of crafting a better customer experience. Collectively, Fuse Alliance and Starnet Worldwide represent more than 250 of the most influential flooring contractors in the U.S.

“The Starnet board and staff are exploring ways to help the industry, starting with highlighting some outstanding recruiting efforts executed by several of our members,” Matson said. “We also plan to share both recruiting, training and retaining best practices with all members.”

Starnet’s efforts in this regard are not lost on members. “One of the great things about being a member of Starnet is we are able to share ideas and learn from so many knowledgeable individuals in the industry,” said Mike Rajner, vice president of Ohio-based Commercial Flooring of Toledo. “If we experience a new issue, there is a very good chance that another member has already—or is currently facing that same challenge—and can offer advice on how to navigate through that situation.”

Rajner sees the lack of well-trained, productive installers as an issue that has universally affected the flooring industry. “Many young people do not view flooring installation as a viable career, and we are working to change that perception,” he explained. “There is a diversity in how each individual Starnet member supplies labor. We have union and non-union contractors, as well as those who subcontract their installation. By discussing this and other issues with dissimilar members, we are able to view the situation from a different perspective and entertain methods that we might not have thought of otherwise. As a group, we are committed to hiring, educating and maintaining an exceptional workforce.”

Mike Nelson, executive vice president of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho-based Great Floors, also applauds Starnet’s efforts in tackling the installation issue head on. “Whether it’s the craftsmen in the field or the project manager running the crew, there just aren’t enough of them to keep up with today’s demand,” he told FCNews. “Starnet has spent a lot of time and energy developing and sharing training programs to accelerate and enhance the members’ training efforts.”

But the value of aligning with Starnet doesn’t end there. Nelson said networking with other members helps address a host of other issues. “The main benefits we have experienced are the result of Starnet’s mission to improve the commercial flooring industry.  We’ve found great value in the idea sharing, webinars and training available to Starnet members. There are initiatives and best practices we learned as members of Starnet that continue to have a positive impact on our business and the service our customers receive.”

Rajner and Nelson are not alone. Commercial flooring contractors like Cheryl Acierno, owner of Denver-based Acierno & Co., and Skip Mancini, owner of B.T. Mancini Co., San Francisco, also attest to the benefits of membership. “There are so many advantages to membership—networking with my Starnet colleagues, being able to build strong relationships with our Starnet vendor partners at the upper management level and the ability to learn from others, which has helped me grow my business, Acierno said. Mancini concurred, adding, “The main benefits for my company are networking with vendors and flooring dealers, learning of best practices and the sharing of ideas. One of the challenges we face in Northern California is finding people; Starnet’s training programs are very helpful in getting new hires up to speed.”

For David Meberg, president and CEO of New York-based Consolidated Carpet—which took home a Starnet design award in the “corporate” category—the value comes in the form of connecting with his peers and sharing what he calls “war” stories. But it doesn’t stop there. “The value I try to derive now is the development of my young and future leaders. That’s where we see the value as a company.”

Commercial market outlook

Beyond the core benefits that membership within Starnet brings, the group is also encouraged by activity it is seeing at the end-user level. Many Starnet members continue to observe strength in healthcare and higher education, and most believe the hospitality sector is settling down. Corporate, on the other hand, has not been growing as rapidly as it has over the past two years, but it remains a large business for Starnet contractors.

On the whole, Matson said she is confident that 2018 will remain a solid year for the industry. “A year ago, we predicted some softness toward the fourth quarter, but that does not appear to be a risk at this point,” she explained. “As for 2019, we expect next year to remain strong, although our keynote speaker this year [Alan Beaulieu] predicted a slight dip in the second half. However, based on our membership, they are planning projects well into 2019.”
 

 

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Consolidated Carpet celebrates 75 years with 75 good deeds

New York, N.Y.—Consolidated Carpet will celebrate its 75th anniversary this coming November. As a third-generation, family-owned business, the company attributes much of its success to the community it serves and the industry in which it operates. Consolidated Carpet will celebrate its anniversary with the Strive for 75—75 Good Deeds to Celebrate 75 Good Years program, adopted by the company and its associates to highlight its dedication to service.

Consolidated Carpet will perform 75 good deeds throughout 2018 to highlight the success the community and industry has helped it achieve. All of company’s initiatives will be shared on social media.

“As the year goes on, we will celebrate our success through good deeds we perform individually, and as a company, that benefit our industry and community,” said David Meberg, CEO.

A few of the deeds occurring this month include: the donation of the “Green Carpet” for this month’s Muscular Dystrophy Association Muscle Team Fundraiser at Chelsea Piers on Jan. 9, a contribution to the Carlstadt, N.J. Volunteer Ambulance Corps, a Silver Sponsorship of the New York City Chapter of Corenet and participation in the 37th Annual Friends of St. Dominic’s Benefit Dinner as a benefactor sponsor.

For more information, visit consolidatedcarpet.com.

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Consolidated Carpet helps the hungry with PB&J Sandwich Making Days

image003New YorkConsolidated Carpet recently hosted a company volunteer event with the help of St. Francis Food Pantries & Shelters. The PB&J Sandwich Making Days are one of the many events that St. Francis holds in the effort to alleviate the physical and emotional hunger of the less fortunate. St. Francis provides a network of services and programs that counsels, feeds, and clothes those in need.

Associates from the New York and New Jersey offices and warehouse gathered in both locations to make sandwiches for the Bed Stuy Campaign Against Hunger and the Hoboken Shelter. The volunteers made a total of 3,424 sandwiches. This was a new record for St. Francis and a successful first PB&J Sandwich Making event for Consolidated Carpet.

“Thank you to all who have participated in this great event and helped to feed thousands of hungry people,” said David Meberg, CEO, Consolidated Carpet. “I am proud of our success and the contribution from all of the Consolidated Carpet associates.”

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FCNews exclusive interview: Consolidated Carpet's Meberg

March 14/21, 2016; Volume 30, Number 19

David Meberg

New York—Consolidated Carpet is among the largest flooring contractors in the country. Now in its third generation, the company is approaching 75 years in business with a reputation that has allowed it to land some of the highest profile jobs in New York City. FCNews publisher Steven Feldman recently sat down with David Meberg, CEO, to discuss business today in general and how Consolidated has been impacted and evolved.

What do you think differentiates Consolidated from other flooring contractors? What do you think you do better than them?

First, we are a labor company that got into sales. Most of our competitors are sales companies that do labor. So we feel we bring a level of project management and expertise to jobsites that our competitors don’t. One of our core philosophies is the customer derives no satisfaction until the product is properly installed. That is where our customer—whether a general contractor or corporate end user—benefits. They feel a certain level of service that they don’t get from our competitors.

Next, when we got into sales we went all in. In the past five to six years, we have really developed our sales process to a point where we are a forward leaning, efficient sales organization. We are networked in and get as far ahead of projects as possible. We are embedded in the design community, the end user community and the builder community. I don’t think our competitors have the breadth that we do in sales.

What is the biggest challenge today for a flooring contractor, generally speaking, and specifically Consolidated?

The atmosphere is still tremendously competitive. There is still downward pressure on pricing, and that’s because our clients have become very sophisticated buyers. The global information technology age has affected the construction industry where our clients have cost bases all over the country. There are professional procurement groups. That’s what these people do for a living—they buy. So it has become challenging to make the proper gross margins. Mill-direct selling is a [by-product] of the buyers trying to negotiate large deals.

For us, locally, the price of labor is a huge challenge right now. Our area is shifting from a unionized market to an open shop market. We are a union shop, so we have a big challenge in adapting to that. The cost of construction has gotten so high, so we will have to adapt to compete in a non-union environment. The downside of a non-union environment is there is no bottom. Look at the retail marketplace, which is all non-union. It’s a matter of how low can you go. There is no value being placed on installation. In a unionized marketplace at least you have an even footing with the price of labor. We are a labor company at our core, so when that is devalued it’s obviously a big challenge for us.

How is Consolidated working to overcome these challenges?

In our market, some people will just sit and collect bids. The primary course of business is bidding work to GCs. However, we try to develop business. We work with architects and designers. We work with corporate end users, healthcare facilities, higher education associations. We try to get in front of the sale. We try to get engaged as early in the process as possible. If we know a project is coming up and we know the designer, we are soliciting that designer. We want to be in the best position when that job ultimately comes up to bid.

As for the labor challenge, we just keep working on our efficiencies and try to become a leaner organization so we can become as cost competitive as possible.

Talk about the challenges and advantages of doing business in a metropolis like New York vs., say, Omaha?

The business model does not change from city to city, so most of the challenges are the same. In the city, the biggest challenge is logistics—the deliveries, the vertical transportation, etc. You are moving [materials] up instead of out. And whatever you take up is going to be limited to the size of the elevator. It is obviously easier with carpet tile vs. bending and folding broadloom. That is labor-intensive work. We still do a lot of broadloom, and those deliveries are much more difficult. You are not just backing up a truck to a building. Other challenges include the traffic congestion, and the deliveries that have to be in by 5 a.m. where you have to start at midnight.

Where is the next generation of installers going to come from?

For the first time, this past summer, we had a capacity issue where we had more work than labor. Being a union shop, we used to be able to call the union and say, ‘we need more men.’ This summer there were none. It is a real problem, and I don’t know where they are going to come from. The union has changed their enrollment standards to get more people in the business. If we were not union we could recruit people and do our own training. So the challenge is on them to find the people.

Talk about your involvement with Starnet, INSTALL, Greater NY Promotional Fund, and how that has that worked to Consolidated’s benefit?

I got involved in those associations because it is one of the core values of this business. My grandfather, my uncles, my father all got involved in these organizations. It is part of who we are as a company. We have learned a lot, and we have given back. It is something that has been engrained in me to be active in the industry. It has helped us become more professional, gain exposure to more people and learn different ways of doing things.

What does Consolidated look for in a supplier?

Another of our core values is to have top-notch relationships with all our suppliers. We look for value, a great product at a great price point. But service is just as important. In all these projects, the product mix today is more comprehensive. We want to have suppliers that offer great service. Having control of the logistics is everything. One of the great benefits of being in these organizations is you meet with high-level executives at their events. So you know who to call when there is a problem. Product is great, price is great, but service trumps both of those.

Most often, are you involved in the specifications of a job or simply the labor?

Ultimately our goal is to spec the products. We can’t control the specifications on every job, but we are 75% involved in the sales process in one way or another in the jobs we are performing.

The specification process is a consulting service we provide to the architect and designer. We like the architect or designer to lay out a project, tell us what the space is going to be used for and then we can give our recommendations. We may recommend product lines or product styles. However, we don’t like to change specs; you can upset the architect as well as the manufacturer of the original specified product. You may get the job but it will hurt relationships. We would prefer to be involved in the specification process. If that process is completed, we will bid what is specified. We might make a notation to our bid where we believe the product is not appropriate. So we might exclude it from our bid and offer an alternative if we are asked.

How important is price today in terms of winning the job? Where does service, relationships, etc. fall in?

In our marketplace, price is still everything. It is unfortunate that other components aren’t factored in. Relationships and service help, but all it gets you is another at bat. They may say, “We want Consolidated, but your competition is 3% lower.” We may get a chance to match the bid, but we won’t get the job if we don’t match that number.

How important is sustainability to Consolidated and its clients?

Another of our core values is to operate an environmentally friendly organization. We invested $1 million to install solar panels in our warehouse in New Jersey. From a floor covering perspective, we look to recycle everything that comes through our doors. As for our clients, with respect to their projects it comes and goes in waves. I think it is almost second nature that projects are performed with an environmental foundation. It is just embedded in office design right now and in the products we install. It is hard to find something we install that doesn’t contain some recycled content. There may not be a spotlight on it like there was 10 years ago, but I think that’s because it has become a culture.

What are you seeing in terms of product mix these days?

Obviously more carpet tile than broadloom and certainly more LVT, but the biggest trend we are seeing is polished and refinished concrete. There are a lot of commercial spaces in New York City being designed with just the refurbishing of the existing concrete subfloor—polishing the concrete, sealing it up and leaving it exposed. It’s a minimalistic design look, almost industrial (unfinished ceilings, glass partitions, unfinished floors). We do so much of that now. Almost 50% of our projects have some type of exposed floor, whether it’s wood or concrete. This used to be a financial town; now it is a tech town. Google, Facebook and LinkedIn have projects, and they have a unique work environment and design that has taken over the marketplace. We didn’t know of it as a trend, but when the top architectural firms are doing their own spaces that way, we know this will be around for a while.

Talk about some of the higher profile projects you have been involved with recently.

We recently landed a bunch of jobs at Hudson Yards, the biggest commercial development project in the country right now and the biggest in New York City since Rockefeller Center. We have completed the renovation of the United Nations campus. We did the Ed Sullivan Theater where David Letterman did his show for 20 years and converted it for Stephen Colbert. We just finished the new Brooklyn Nets practice facility. We have been sprucing some things up at CitiField [home of the New York Mets]. And we did some work at the Whitney Museum in the Meatpacking District.

Any plans to get into the maintenance side of the business?

We offer maintenance to our clients but we subcontract it out. We always talk about it, but just haven’t done it yet. It would be a natural progression for us.

Any presidential candidate you believe would be better for the flooring industry?

I think the best candidate is not running. I saw what Michael Bloomberg did as the mayor of New York City. [In the years following 9/11], he led the growth of the economy in this marketplace. And through the recession, New York outperformed most of the nation despite the fact this was a banking town. I think he diversified the city’s marketplace. He helped create a strong and vibrant economy. He also maintained the standard of living from a security standpoint. Yes, he became a little polarizing toward the end of this time in office with his [large-cup] soda ban, but he was also the guy who first banned smoking in bars. Everyone forgets that.

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Meberg elected to BTEA executive position

Screen Shot 2016-01-27 at 10.39.49 AMNew York—David Meberg, president and CEO of Consolidated Carpet, was recently elected to the executive committee of the Board of Governors of the Building Trades Employers Association of New York (BTEA). Meberg has served on the Board of Governors for the past six years. He also sits on The Sub-Contractor Roundtable for the association.

The BTEA’s membership is comprised of over 25 trade associations who represent 1,700 construction managers, general contractors and specialty subcontracting firms who employ over 120,000 skilled construction trade workers in the New York City metropolitan marketplace. The association advocates for the construction industry in both the public and private sectors through legislative initiatives, health and safety training and both public and labor relations.

“The BTEA is the focal point for improving the working conditions and environment for both contractors and their employees in this complicated marketplace called New York,” Meberg said. “I am proud to be elected to this post during what is a critical time for our industry.”

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Consolidated CEO honored at St. Francis golf outing

consolidated.St. Francis
Consolidated’s David Meberg, left, and TPG Architecture’s Jim Phillips, right.

New York—Consolidated Carpet president and CEO, David Meberg was honored recently at the St. Francis Food Pantries & Shelters’ 15th annual golf outing & pool party fundraiser. Continue reading Consolidated CEO honored at St. Francis golf outing

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Starnet recognizes member companies for Environmental Stewardship

Darien, Conn. — Starnet Worldwide Commercial Flooring recently recognized three Starnet member companies for excellence in Environmental Stewardship, a newly established award. The presentation was held April 26, 2013 during the Starnet Annual Meeting at the JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort & Spa in Palm Desert, Calif. The selected companies demonstrate leadership in sustainability through efforts including carpet reclamation, office waste reduction and energy reduction among others. Continue reading Starnet recognizes member companies for Environmental Stewardship

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Consolidated Carpet expands healthcare division and project team

New York—With an extensive and successful history of installations in the healthcare market, Consolidated Carpet is proud to announce the development of their in-house Healthcare Division. Under this division, expertly-certified associates and specialty-trained installers can provide informed project coordination and execution, tailored to the unique needs of Healthcare Facilities. Continue reading Consolidated Carpet expands healthcare division and project team