Monday, November 30, 2009

Getting into the spirit of the season

So we made it through the first of the holidays in reasonable fashion; celebrating with our extended family. So we made it through the first of the holidays in reasonable fashion; celebrating with our extended family. At the top of the hill where I live are three families that have seen their children grow up and move out on their own; scattering from their hometown to new locations on the East and West coasts. For the first time in many years all the kids made it home for Thanksgiving to join their families for the feast. It's easy to tell from the increased number of cars in the driveways.

A rainy Friday made it easy to work while others joined the madness of Black Friday, the biggest shopping day in the U.S. My task was to complete the Annual Economic Review that will appear in the January issue of Industrial Laser Solutions and which also will be presented at the annual Lasers & Photonics Marketplace Seminar to be held in San Francisco on January 25.

I've been collecting references on the global manufacturing scene for several months, tossing those that were superseded by updated financial news. Still the folder is several inches thick. My opinion of the overall market for industrial lasers is formed from these references, interviews with suppliers of laser products, and countless anecdotal comments that are passed to me. By necessity the timing of the report can't be finalized until the latest quarterly reports are available from the 30 publicly traded laser and system suppliers that I track. Also, because of the importance of the fabricated metal product sector, I held off until the last possible minute as I collected impressions from those attending the Fabtech show in Chicago.

I'm not going to tip readers off in this blog to what my report will conclude but most of you, if you are in manufacturing, can probably guess that 2009 will be negative. Many of those I spoke with at Fabtech had already written-off 2009 and they were planning for an improved 2010. This seems to be the attitude of others in the manufacturing sector according to my reference sources.

Most of the neighboring kids who returned for the holiday stayed around for the long weekend, taking advantage of a rather mild weekend to play some touch football. As they worked off their Thanksgiving meals with exuberant no-rules football I pondered on their immediate future as this country stumbles though a prolonged recession and slow recovery. All but two, a graduate student and doctor doing his residency, are in the nation's workforce. Each feels the recession in one way or another. The only female, an MBA consultant for a major accounting firm who sees the inside picture, can only express their concerns based on actual experiences.

One, a budding motion picture and TV producer, is concerned about investors; another, a railroad executive, is thinking about the drop in car loadings that, he says, can be a tip to the markets three months from now.

But I notice that all the kids are playing with the abandon and joy of young people when surrounded by their friends. I call them kids even though they are young men and a woman. But to me they will likely always be the kids, because I experienced their births and their childhood as they were raised here on the hill. As I enjoy their enjoyment I am encouraged by their vitality, poise, enthusiasm, and seemingly carefree attitude. They face a tough year but it doesn't seem to have them down; quite the opposite.

So as I put the final touches on my report I do so with some of their attitude; we will get through this by looking forward. Among the young people who are our future will be those tested by this, the most severe economic declines since the Great Depression, who will be starting the next economic revival. I think we are in good hands.

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