Thursday, August 6, 2009

Sooner rather than later

Last week Newsweek magazine declared on its cover, "The recession is over." Last week Newsweek magazine declared on its cover, "The recession is over." These words were printed on an inflated big blue balloon (interesting choice of color). But just below the balloon is a needle poised to puncture it. An asterisk on the word "over" proclaims "Good luck surviving the recovery." Thanks a lot Daniel Gross (the author of this piece). You really know how to puncture good news before we can begin to bask in the glow of it. I must admit, his article does make interesting, if disturbing, reading.

It seems that debunking the recovery is just the latest in a stream of economic forecasts that so far have been way off base. In my youth I had a mentor who classified all economists (and accountants) as historians, always ready to tell you what went wrong after the fact; people who by definition are not risk takers.

Some economic projections postulate the fault for a slow recovery will lie at the feet of the manufacturing industries. Let's see now; are unemployment figures a leading or trailing indicator? Here in the U.S. we bailed out the banks, insurance companies, and other financial institutions and currently the auto industry with a "clunker" buy back. But when it comes to manufacturing, you're on your own guys.

Some in the administration don't have a problem bailing out financial institutions by dumping a few hundreds of billions onto the banks to allow them to pay off their loans so they can again offer swollen bonuses to the deal makers. After all, we are told they are entitled by contract. But dump a few billion on the manufacturing sector to rehire those contracted workers that were let go who could help get us going again, faster and wiser--No way!

One reason is that we, manufacturing, are our own worst enemy, especially here in the U.S. We would like the stimulus money if it came without strings. Sorry guys, only bankers get that privilege. As long as I have been associated with manufacturing in this country it's always been the same, give me the money but don't ask me to be regulated.

So we can't really cry. Other nations know how to pick up their manufacturing economy, especially that exporting giant Germany. And for a model, how about that capitalist giant China? In less than six months they turned a flat GNP into a 7% possibility. Maybe politics their style has some value.

Well I am here to tell you that I don't believe the recovery will be long and hard--contrary to all the evidence the economists put forth. They got the recession wrong two years ago so why believe them now? I do agree that it will be hard, but when was success in manufacturing not hard?

My money is on a solid recovery led by a reenergized, lean, mean manufacturing machine. It won't be in auto but in a myriad of high technology solutions to the growing needs of a global economy.

I work in an innovative industrial environment that may be back on its heels right now but not down and out. Regardless of what some historians would lead you to believe, the industrial laser industry bootstrapped its way to billions of dollars of annual revenues and they'll do it again. Sooner than some would have you believe.

In the laser industry companies have prepared for the recovery by investing, in a down economy, in R&D to develop innovative solutions to solve the next generation of manufacturing problems. And many of them, in the face of growing red numbers, have held on to key personnel that will be needed when the recovery begins. These are just two reasons I think the laser industry will recover quickly in developing markets.

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