One of the problems with reporting information from specific contractors is too often that information is read to be indicative of the entire industry. In some years that might be fine, but not this year. Whether the differences are geographic, contractor size, contractor experience, weather.. or something else (who knows what it might be), contractors are reporting a 2009 year that varies widely. Consider: * A contractor out West has always offered paving services, which he subs out to various paving contractors. This year his paving has overtaken his sealcoating work by leaps and bounds. * On the other side of the country a sealcoating specialist is having his best year ever, partly, he thinks, because people are unwilling to spend the money to pave. * Down South a small pavement marking contractor who just a year or so ago was so busy we was having to bid jobs by phone and fax -- and he was getting the lion's share of that work -- is now out pounding the pavement to drum up business. * A Plains State sweeping contractor is fighting to maintain sweeping frequency -- after eating fuel cost increases the last couple of years -- as commercial clients are trying to save money by cutting back. * In the Midwest a multi-faceted contractor has been going great guns all summer, with crews working seven days and week and 60 hours a person. But competition is tough, often going up against five or six bidders as opposed to maybe three a couple of years ago. And here's the kicker: His business is down from last year and profits are down 20% from a year ago. * Another midwestern contractor reports he had plenty of work -- and was waiting on many, many bids -- into August. But work just came to a screeching halt in September, but by Oct. 1 he was up and running full steam ahead with more than five weeks' work on the books. * Contractors from Minnesota through Maine are struggling to decide how to finish off their season. Temperatures have been unpredictable or predictably too cold to sealcoat, and in many New England areas snow has all but shut down (temporarily, we hope) most pavement maintenance work. * And a consultant we talk with who handles more than a dozen pavement maintenance clients nationwide says half are doing as well as last year while half are not doing as well sales-wise but through cost-cutting and efficiency efforts will manage to turn the same profit as they did in 2008. Which of these situations represents the "real" paving & pavement maintenance industry of 2009? All of them -- and depending on your market and how you've approached your business this year any of the above statements could represent your company.