I'm always researching penny stocks, looking for companies who truly have the potential to shine. Although I can't predict the future, my gut feeling, an appreciation for innovation, and of course, a lot of investigating has always been successful for me. That's why I'm excited about my recent find, Eco Building Products, Inc. (OTCPK:ECOB).
Trading with little fanfare, ECOB has revolutionary products that I believe are a great value. This led me to contact the President and CEO, Mr. Steve Conboy, an outspoken veteran in the lumber industry with an amazing product called Eco Red Shield (NASDAQ:ERS). Mr. Conboy, was kind enough to grant me this helpful and informative interview, as well as, allow me to share it with you.
To preface: ERS, is a coating that makes lumber- fire, mold, termite, water and rot resistant while being eco sustainable, safe and green- all for a little more than the price of commonly used lumber. ERS's game-changing capability in a billion dollar global industry has the potential to create thousands of jobs here in America, address many world wide health concerns, lower insurance premiums and lawsuits all while making homes much stronger and safer than ever before.
After reading this, take a look at the many other incredible products on their site, ecob.net, I think you'd agree it is worth more than a penny.
Shiny Copper Picks: I'm here with Steve Conboy, President and CEO of Eco Building Products (OTCPK:ECOB). Steve, I thank you for your time.
Steve Conboy: Thank you. I appreciate the opportunity to update shareholders on the exciting company news.
SCP: First congratulations on your recent nomination and appointment to the United States Department of Commerce CEIDEC. This sounds like a terrific platform to be heard and make the difference you seek. Are you ready?
Steve: The people that nominated me have been following what I've been doing for over two years and they know how passionate I am about American Job Creation. 90% of the world housing market is outside the US. I'm very involved in working with Washington to finds ways into the off shore housing markets. Our effort will create more jobs than any other industry has in the US with both our technology and American grown lumber. I plan to help teach our government how construction using home-grown lumber using our technology will lead the world in housing. We would pre-build them, and ship overseas while creating the hundreds of thousands of jobs here.
SCP: Let's start with the terrible drought out west. The U.S. Department of Agriculture designated 11 states as natural disaster areas. In a recent article from the University of Oregon, they predicted, "a sobering future of wildfire dangers in the west". Does ECOB have any plans for this area?
Steve: We are aggressively marketing areas that would benefit from ERS. Living in the area I have personally witnessed what these fires can do. After World War II, homes were hastily built due to the immense demand. The demand caused a shortage of old growth for production homes and veneers for plywood. To keep up with the shortage, sheathing products like OSB and EWP, and engineered products like I-joist were created. The trouble is they are made from tree chips which are bonded together with highly flammable resins, making homes vulnerable to fires. Our cost-effective coating, slows the ignition time on sheathing products, I-joists, and all of the lumber making homes much safer allowing first responders more time to save lives and protect property. Look at our fire tests on www.ecobmedia.com. Lab tests are one thing, but live burns witnessed first hand by Fire Chiefs at their training centers, creates real believers and supporters of this technology.
SCP: You have become well known in the Super Storm Sandy region. Do you want to comment?
Steve: Moving into a highly impacted region like NY/NJ after a natural disaster, you have to go in and get dirty; get to know the people and understanding their plight. With the help of The Home Depot, we were able to make our products available for the victims by giving them the choice to build defensively and be more prepared for any future storms. Its great as both our customers and us profit from the most cost effective defensive lumber the industry has ever seen.
As other lumber retailers continually store wet and frozen inventory outdoors causing growth problems inside the lumber- the choice will be easy when contractors and home owners compare our red lumber to the soaked alternative. We are expecting lots of red billboards (homes) in and around the Hurricane Sandy rebuild this spring since we are now showcased with the biggest and best lumber retailer in the world.
SCP: Tell me more about The Home Depot relationship. How is that working out?
SCP: Want to elaborate?
Steve: They appreciate the value our product brings. I believe they agree that wood framed buildings subject to flood plains or wild fires no longer need to be built or rebuilt with raw lumber. Value-added fire protection is way better than building homes across America with raw wood and glued panels that ignite almost as fast as gasoline.
SCP: I've noticed Eco Red Shield at The Home Depots are still being restocked, are you guys planning on going national?
Steve: At this point all I can say is that we've had a successful pilot program and we have restocked and we are still selling in their stores. We are always discussing better ways to serve the public with our products and The Home Depot's partnership. The gentlemen I'm working with at THD are sharp, intelligent people with great business acumen. They are leaders because they recognize and appreciate innovation much sooner than competitors.
SCP: Many say you're not the typical CEO. Good or bad, you are plugged in and are one of the most talked about guys in the lumber industry- want to fill me in?
Steve: In today's housing market and in what we do, that is a good thing and a compliment. This industry was in need of a change and most are afraid of the truth. Most CEO's are still trying to recover from the down turn in housing and have not addressed the real issues with mold and rot in their inventory. Since termite protection and fire protection is for the most part applied after-market, these major producers of the commodity want nothing to do with adding that value. Meanwhile their lumber sits in reloads, growing mold and rot, openly getting rejected. Lumber is mainly stored outdoors and unwrapped lumber start to rot with 20% moisture and 5% of rot - which is equal to 80% engineering loss. This is a major problem for them and a great one for us. At Eco, we are trying to raise the bar on American Homes so we can continue to lead the world in building. I'm a guy that recognizes we have a real issue when it comes to what Jim Clifton writes about in his book "The coming Jobs War" and I'm out to do something about it.
SCP: We need jobs.
Steve: If we raise the bar here in the U.S., we will attract off shore housing contracts and create jobs in American factories instead of watching old mill towns shut down with Asia buying our logs by the ton, and creating jobs in their market.
SCP: Aren't there any building codes for this?
Steve: There are new building codes regarding building with green lumber in excess of 19% moisture content, but they are not being enforced because it would shut down housing tracts. The truth is, in some markets green lumber in excess of 19% moisture content should be banned from the industry to protect the home owners from what can happen behind their walls, ultimately impacting their home's indoor air quality. We know Eco Red Shield is a game changer because it helps prevent those things that can happen behind the finishes in a home from enemies like mold, rot, termites and fire before the walls are closed up and you can not get to it. We are all about preventing problems before people move in, like "Good Bones, Good Homes."
SCP: OK. Well some say "Is this new technology for real? A natural, ecologically-friendly coating, which can be used as fertilizer on plants that retards fire, mold and termites- it's impossible" You want to enlighten the skeptics? How do you see this technology in the future?
Steve: The skeptics are within the industry. They know we are for real and they are fearful that Eco will take some of their market share or change the industry entirely. Our goal is not to take market share from the pressure-treaters; we are after the lumber above the mud sill that up until now nobody paid attention too. We have recently been asked to speak to these pressure-treaters at their yearly conference this spring in California and will address this issue. We are patent-pending and are positioned to go globally. There are a few copycat types of products in Canada with no code reports and only third-party results with no quality control auditing. Architects will not specify third-party products with no code reports. Until these other look-a-like products have real code reports and quality controls, they'll remain a regional product without any support to go national.
SCP: Copycats? Do you mean Pressure Treaters ?
Steve: No I'm talking about a few coaters in Canada and maybe one in the U.S. in the south. They are trying to copy us and it's possible that some came into this industry because of me and what I'm doing. For now, they are not a threat. They are running under third-party testing with no code support or quality control auditing. It's easy when you ask them for their Liability Policy because the amount will be dictated by the depth of their published testing. In order for them to license their technology someone other than themselves has to be looking inside their blending and application on a regular basis.
SCP: This explains why you told me you went back to the drawing board after your earlier days with the other color lumber to create quality controls and code approvals.
Steve: Yes, as hard as it was we basically had to start from scratch go back to the drawing board and create a product that was way deeper in testing and quality controls. Eco's very own Mark Vuozzo led the team of wood scientists and microbiologists as we created a new platform in the Building Code that would recognize a coating since there was nothing previously in place. Once the platform was established, we had to meet the testing and quality control requirements in order to get our engineering services report. At that point, we then had to prove to GREENGUARD that what we had was safe around children and in schools, and we did. While all this was going on we got recognized by the CONNECT High-Tech Society and Edison Universe for our technology, and at that point we knew we had the game changer. These tests take time and are not only about handling a few samples or torching to do a burn test. The fact that our facilities are audited by an accredited agency makes our coating far superior to anything on the planet. It's all of this work that gives us the ability to license others to even use our technology. There's no doubt about it - we are the best in the world in defensive coating, bar none.
SCP: So there is no competition? And the demand by consumers that clearly want a better choice than what's offered by the raw unprotected lumber that's currently out there?
Steve: Again, in my opinion, there is no one close to Eco. The copycats have many years of expensive testing ahead of them to get close to a code approval, let alone a national or even global presence in the supply chain like Eco.
SCP: Understood. I'm sure your Eco Red Shield winning the Gold at the prestigious Edison Awards for innovation this year was quite a feat. Congratulations. Tell me about this game-changer?
Steve: The award we received was all about technology. We were up against game-changing medical devices and the latest in defense technology- some truly amazing advanced products. We were elated to be recognized for our products but more importantly we are excited about injecting new life into our industry! We are looking forward to creating more jobs here and exporting into emerging markets that are in dire need of this technology. Our credibility has never been stronger, and we appreciate the attention. It's amuses me how skeptics on the message boards could even think that the testing done to obtain our ESR, QAI listing and GREENGUARD certification, let alone Home Depot's partnership is not real; we can't make that up.
SCP: I noticed quite a bit of dynamic products on your site, like Eco ShelterTM; can you tell me about it and some of the other products?
Steve: For now we are focused on our lumber plan and once that takes hold we will start to focus more on all of the other products and what supply chain we will fit them into. We are constantly innovating and advocating the need to protect the rest of the structure for years. We have spent much of our time and resources building a solid foundation AND are now prepared to service the mainstream market where we will soon realize profit and revenues. We are now ready with fully operational facilities backed by superior quality controls to go to market nationally and abroad.
SCP: You just recently held a proxy vote by your shareholders; many are asking when is the split planned?
Steve: At this time there are no plans to report.
SCP: Many believe that the stock is currently way undervalued and are asking when can they expect to see value on the stock?
Steve: All I can say is to keep your eyes on Eco while we navigate the crossing into the main supply chain. In the lumber business everything is about being prepared and ready for the spring run.
SCP: Have you had any analyst estimates?
Steve: Yes, and we know we are not a penny stock but we see things as it's a long season and timing is everything. Our goal is to move up to the big boards but we had to focus on building our foundation, testing, code approval, quality control first with plans to cross the bridge into bigger revenue. We are ready now and are expecting a great new year and a terrific spring run.
SCP: With all of these natural disasters becoming commonplace in the United States, and around the globe, wouldn't your products be of immense help?
Steve: My team and I are life long framers and lumber people and when the Northridge, California quake hit, our engineers raised the bar with respect to lateral strength and reinforced hardware. It was not easily accepted in the Industry, as most hate change but that's how it is. We're reaching out to other regions in the U.S. to embrace high strength engineering, especially after what we saw out east with Sandy. We will focus on marketing all of Eco Red Shields fire, termite and mold resistant properties. With tools like www.IDBP.org we know our American Architects and Engineers will start to specify our product and protect the people that live in American homes and all the wood fiber values from enemies like termites and rot because it's their social responsibility. Many are anxiously waiting to see Eco Red Shield in the national supply chain. This product has the ability to one day be recognized as the American Brand of lumber since we separate our lumber from all the rest in both color and protection
SCP: You're most recent opening of Eco's Australian affiliate- How is that going?
Steve: Our plans are to allow others to use our equipment, quality control program and auditing so we can reach anywhere in the world with this technology without Eco having to set up company owned facilities. The team in Australia is well positioned to offer solutions to the country's major termite, mold and especially constant wild fire problems. We are in discussions with lumber people in Canada, New Zealand and Europe as well. Again, it's a long season and as we here in America continue to lead the world in housing practices other countries will follow what we do.
SCP: You have a hire-a-vet program; that's terrific. How is that going? What's your forecast on jobs creation at ECOB?
Steve: We've launched our www.Pledge2Vets.com program and we are out to hire more vets. My plan is to grow our business finding more guys like the Vets we have already hired. These people are highly trained and make great employees; in fact, one of our hires is now our Home Depot National Accounts Manager. Not only is it our responsibility to hire these returning heroes, but it is the best business decision any company will every make. As for job creations at Eco, we are expanding and expecting to be able to provide many jobs throughout the States.
SCP: Great. My last question: You've developed quite a following: first responders- especially firefighters, architects and engineers as well as environmentalists who have become some of ECOB's biggest advocates. How does it make you feel?
Steve: I appreciate the following, I'm not done yet we have a few more problems to solve. Last year, in the west (US), forest fire defenses were exhausted in the first few weeks. It's difficult watching firemen along the roads fighting the fires with shovels and rakes. We lost 19 guys in Arizona to a forest fire that turned on them while they we trying to protect homes. Very few understand why I waited so long to take ERS into the national supply chain. I believe we would not be where we are today- if we distributed prematurely. Many good products and technologies fail by hastily entering the supply chain potentially causing unneeded complications that can undermine the bigger picture and plan. We needed to what we do best... build a foundation first... (smiling) ... we did and we are ready!
SCP: Thank you again and good luck to you.
Disclosure: I am long ECOB.