Reading CONEXPO’s Upbeat Signs

The “official” stamp of success will come later when all the numbers are run, but CONEXPO certainly feels like we have reached the end of the beginning of the turnaround.I’m enjoying the upbeat feeling here.

OEMs have presented numbers that are evidence of a slow but concrete upward movement and their lead executives’ press conference rhetoric is a little more substantial than we were hearing through the latter months of 2010 when much of the speaking was done with more crossed fingers than data.

The numbers themselves don’t approach the pre-recession peaks of course and they won’t for a while, Portland Cement Association chief economist Ed Sullivan saying that 2012 will be a lot like 2011. But during it there will be some significant structural progress to set us up for a very healthy 2013. He may be a little conservative in his numbers, but even so, solid indicators from the industry showing we are heading to a very healthy 2013 sounds like something to be welcomed.

The biggest construction equipment show in the world next year is Intermat in France in April and the Intermat folks were telling me that they’re really delighted with what they saw in CONEXPO here in Las Vegas. So too the folks from buama, the world’s biggest trade show in 2013 in Munich. The bauma numbers presented here, data from EU economies of course, are also indicating the beginning of a steadily building  climb out. Slow, perhaps frustratingly so, of course. But slow/steady is better than intermittent or erratic.

OEMs brought everything and the kitchen sink to CONEXPO this year, a really impressive collection of new models and upgrades. At least for me there was the impression that they had decided it was time to hold nothing back.If CONEXPO had poker tables they’d be all in, betting on an extended recovery.

I recall being in Vegas about three years ago looking out of my hotel window and seeing a host of construction cranes working on new hotels and commercial space here in sin city. I don’t see them this time. But you can’t miss CONEXPO’s Gold Lot, a sprawling outdoor heavy equipment display zone. From most of the hotels in this city you can see it’s crowded sea of construction cranes.