One of the great things about hosting the conference programs for NPE West and NPE is I have an opportunity to meet and spend time talking with a lot of contractors from all across the country. I learn a lot about a lot of businesses, and a lot about how people view their market. Contractors I talked with at NPE West were overwhelmingly content with their 2008 season. "We have a bullet-proof industry," one contractor told me, and there's something to that. I've always viewed the paving and pavement maintenance market as "recession resistant" and the 2008 year supports that idea. Property managers who could afford to pave, paved. Those who couldn't afford it (as HMA costs climbed all summer) shifted many of their dollars to maintenance -- and many of the contractors I talked with were the beneficiaries of that shift. Almost all contractors I talked with said their 2008 was equal to or better than their 2007, though many admitted their margins were a little tighter. Many contractors said they had a "typical" amount of work on the books already for 2009, while some said that partly because of good weather they were able to burn through their 2009 jobs late in the 2008 season. So as news came out yesterday that the U.S. has now officially been in a recession for a year, we will get an even better chance to see how bullet-proof this industry really is. I'm optimistic. On Thursday I'm headed to a Cygnus editors-only "Economic Summit" to compare notes about the construction market. I'll let you know what I learn, but if you want to let me know how your 2008 went and what you foresee for 2009 I'd appreciate it. You can call me (708-354-7039), you can send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or you can just post a comment to this blog.