Time to move on

It’s time to refer to the recession as history

Agree with me or not, the recovery in manufacturing is well underway. Considering where we were a year ago, when this column in Industrial Laser Solutions headlined, “Waiting to hit bottom,” things are much more positive. In my files is a folder loaded with positive news, from the past three months, about the manufacturing economy. As you already may have noted: productivity up, orders and backlogs up, profits up, employment still shaky but showing signs of up, outsourcing turning to re-sourcing, capital equipment investment up, and on and on.

Here’s my pet peeve, though: almost all of these good news items have in them either “but” or “however” immediately following the lead paragraph. What is it with the reporters, journalists, economists (professional and amateur) and random bloggers? Typical example: “The employment numbers for March are up, but the number of unemployed workers has not decreased”.

I am getting so conditioned to the good news/bad news syndrome that I automatically look for the instant analysis that will tarnish otherwise positive information. My forbearing wife will tell you about my standard response to those pesky infomercials that interrupt viewing of one of my favorite cable shows, Holmes on Homes. You know the ones I mean, the ones where the announcer states the selling price of the widgets he is promoting and then breathlessly intones, “But wait!” as he offers to double the deal. I am so tuned into this that whenever I hear the offer for some unwanted product, I yell, “But wait.” And that is how I am beginning to respond to most of the good news items I read.

I’m so ticked-off at this editorial nonsense that I have decided that “but” and “however” should be banned from all ILS editorial. I’m going to call a meeting of my staff and issue a mandate that these words will never again appear in this publication. However, it would likely be impossible, but worth a try.

I was reminded of this at a reception following the first day of the recently held SALA event, which drew an interesting cross-section of attendees from both the user and supplier communities. I was making it a point to solicit comments relative to the situation in the U.S. manufacturing sector, so I asked each for his views, important after a couple of weeks of increasingly more positive news. Not surprisingly many I talked with referred to very current good news and almost in the same breath uttered either of the two verboten words.

I found it interesting that good news was always tailed by a caution. Was this a conditioned response to disappointment with the progress of the economy or a direct reflection of those respondents’ true feelings? Several comments received were based on specific experiences that individual companies had experienced, typically framed around a “Let’s wait and see how this quarter shakes out” reply.

The trouble with this is that’s the same response we heard at the start of the last quarter, so it leaves me wondering if the perceived horizon for universally accepted recovery from the recession is a moving target, moving by quarters until the year is up. But, I quibble as recovery is real, however, and it’s time to refer to the recession as history.

David A. Belforte
belforte@pennwell.com

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