In addition, during this conference call, we may refer to certain non-GAAP financial measures. We have provided a reconciliation of these non-GAAP measures to the most directly comparable GAAP measure in an appendix in the slides on our the website.I will now turn the call over to Paul to begin the review of the first quarter. Paul? Paul D. Carrico Thanks, Martin, and good morning, ladies and gentlemen. We appreciate you joining us this morning. I'll go through the details of the quarter in a few minutes but before that, I'd like to outline some thoughts on why I believe Georgia Gulf is poised to deliver significant value to shareholders in the coming years. First, as you all know and have heard many times recently, the development of shale gas resources in the United States continues to fundamentally change the landscape for global petrochemicals and for North America in particular. Nothing is changing that dynamic from our point of view. After a lengthy history of being marginally competitive to disadvantaged, North America producers are now at the low end of the cost curve. Based on the view of many experts in the industry, the advantage appears to be sustainable for many years to come. As one example in our industry of this sea change, the major increase in the export volumes far PVC in the last year dramatically illustrates how we can now participate in world markets, while producing key materials for such a basic need as water management in countries expanding their infrastructure. The global demand for our products will continue to grow because they are essential materials needed to provide the basic necessities of clean water and shelter, to developed and developing markets around the world. Many of these areas have per capita consumption well below current demand in North America and Europe.
Another key opportunity for Georgia Gulf lies in the U.S. housing market. New starts and renovation spending have been at an unsustainably low levels for several years. We appear to be in the early stages of a recovery that should generate increased demand and margins across all 3 of our segments on a domestic basis. As this local pickup in consumption develops, we expect to begin to benefit much earlier in the next housing recovery than any prior recovery. The opportunity for this change is strongly supported by operating rates that are already in the mid- to high-80s for vinyl due to the export levels currently in place.Also, there have been many companies in the building products space that have either exited the business or have had to shut down due to the financial stress caused by the downturn. This clearly should present new opportunities for the remaining players. So given the backdrop of these fundamental shifts in the microenvironment and are vastly improved balance sheet, we have a unique opportunity to take advantage of these changes. The combination of growing our asset foundation on the chemicals side by increasing our chlorine integration level and improving our Building Products profitability, due, improvements in fundamental market opportunities is really exciting. As we have discussed a number of times in the past, the management group and all of their team members have taken and continue to take steps to improve Georgia Gulf's cost structure. We've been [indiscernible] on the cost side. While at the same time, on the revenue side, we are moving in the markets that provide a more diverse and sustainable long-term customer base. For all of these reasons, we believe that Georgia Gulf is poised to significantly outperform prior cycles and deliver significant value to shareholders. Read the rest of this transcript for free on seekingalpha.com