Despite what sometimes seems to me to be a conspiracy to hijack the rebound by constantly denigrating the snippets of good economic news we receive, turning them into mere bumps on a road some say is still headed downhill, there is definitely a change for the good permeating the U.S. manufacturing community and the laser industries that provide support.
An example is illustrated by recent good news about the unemployment figures that turned positive a few weeks ago (there will be fluctuations). Immediately some pundits managed to find some gloomy data related to new job numbers and, like lions thrown their dally rations, leaped on the negative totally ignoring the fact that the corner on jobs may have been turned. One of the most egregious has been the Wall Street Journal who, under new ownership, has made an effort to become a national reporter on more than business news, thereby appealing to people like me who relish riffling through their pages to find bits and pieces of news and information that I find satisfying.
The editorial pages of the WSJ have become so politicized that I don’t even bother to read them because I know that I won’t find a balanced view there. But what bothers me is that this politicized view seems to have spread into the news pages and things like a negative response to good job news are now common. Before you throw examples of the New York Times editorial pages at me, consider that this publication seems to at least work at separating editorial policy thoughts from the news pages. I also ignore the editorial pages of my local paper that espouses ideas contrary to mine, but at least don’t let these ideas slip into news reports.
Those of us who labor in the vineyards—a poetic way to say we who are in touch with the working people—already sense that change for the good is happening. We saw it at this year’s first big laser show and again at the more focused medical devices show, which followed a few weeks later. And we have already noted that companies are recalling laid-off workers and some are staffing-up new internal businesses. It is not uncommon to see employment openings promoted on the Web.
Just as some media are determined to find bad news amongst the good, ILS is relentlessly looking for good in the bad. We find that the corner has been turned and market sectors such as semiconductor, medical devices, telecom products, and solar energy are pumping out new products and technology that in one form or another requires laser processing. Expanded opportunities for ultra-fast pulse lasers, a bright spot during the recession, are producing double-digit sales growth. A raft of new applications using various types of green lasers is advancing toward the commercial markets, offering opportunities that will act to boost overall revenues in the near future.
The only fly in the ointment is the global situation in fabricated metal products. The recession in this industrial sector was responsible for massive losses to the international suppliers of laser cutting systems. This application represents half the total revenues for industrial laser systems, and for the past decade has been a prime driver for prosperity in the industrial laser sector.
To recover from the slump in 2009 sales revenues will take several quarters of double-digit growth in unit sales, a situation that will require a more exuberant market rebound than seems likely at his writing.
The important factor to remember is that 50% of the laser system business is not in sheet metal cutting and that many sectors that make up this business are among those that appear to be recovering from the recession. So overall good news from this side of the business will produce the feel-good attitude we think is key to a solid rebound for industrial laser markets.
David A. Belforte