In my last Blog I regaled you with anecdotes about the snowstorms plaguing the Northeast, so this is going to sound like a broken record but we had two more last week. One of them dumped another 69 cm of snow from a fast moving storm that was out of here a few hours before I returned from San Francisco, where I enjoyed record-breaking temperatures in the high 20 cm range all last week. What with record cold temperatures below -18C in Boston and 150 cm of snow on the ground. you’re probably wondering why I came home from that glorious Bay area weather. Me too. It would have been hard to explain to my fellow Photonics West show goers why I stayed after the event was over.
Photonics West was a roaring success, with a record crowd of about 20,000 clogging the aisles in the North and South Halls and the many conference rooms where the SPIE technical sessions were held at the Moscone Center. We knew something was up when the aisles in the South Hall, where we had our booth, filled up just after the opening on Tuesday and stayed that way through Thursday noon.
As I wended my way through the halls to visit other exhibitors, I was impressed by the density of the visitors in the halls and in supplier exhibits. At a Wednesday afternoon LASE conference on Fiber Lasers, my presentation on the fiber laser markets drew a standing-room-only crowd of more than 250. I shouldn’t brag about this as most fiber laser sessions drew full attendance, but when I finished almost half of the audience left the room.
The overall attitude in the exhibit halls and conference rooms and at the annual PennWell-organized Lasers & Photonics Marketplace Seminar was upbeat. Veteran attendees like me recognize that buzz that seems to permeate a show when business is good. It’s an undercurrent of excitement on the part of visitors echoed by the exhibit booth personnel. And one can pick it up in the hotel lobbies and bars where the noise level ramps up after the show and in the restaurants populated by show goers and exhibitors where the bills can be obscenely large. Midway through the week we had our impression of business health confirmed with the reports from two public companies, Coherent with sales up 49% year on year and II-VI, which reported a 76% increase y/y.
There is no doubt about it; business is good in the laser markets and getting better. The manufacturing sector in the U.S. is having a great recovery from the recession, so much so that companies have begun to set aside overtime and hiring is commencing — not a full blown industry wide reaction, but large enough to staunch the unemployment number growth and produce some real downward movement. The Associated Press reports that at Number 1, the U.S. out-produces Number 2 China by more than 40% and does it with less workers; by making complex and expensive goods.
At my Lasers & Photonics Marketplace presentation last week, I was very optimistic about the long term prospects for market growth, so much so that at the lunch break I was jokingly being called Pollyanna by fellow attendees. But you can’t deny the numbers; six months ago, the same numbers were neutral and now they are very positive. So go with the flow and enjoy a renaissance in U.S. manufacturing and the growth of the laser market accordingly.