Economic Indicators?

On December 4 editors, publishers, and salespeople from Cygnus Business Media's Construction Owners' Group met for a 5-hour session to share information on the state of our individual markets. While we don't pretend to be economists to any degree at all, we each do have our finger on the pulse of at least part of the industry we work in. What we learned, to no one's surprise, is that the economy has affected all our markets -- and your markets. Contractors across the construction spectrum were happy if they could say they were able to tread water in 2008 and will most likely feel the same if they can tread water again in 2009. Manufacturers, those folks who try to reach you through the ads in our magazines and their presence at our trade shows, apparently feel the same way. They are expressing concern as 2009 begins, in many cases delaying advertising decisions until the year gets going. Suppliers of pavement maintenance materials are expecting 2009 to be as "good" as 2008 and possibly better as property owners continue to delay costlier work by letting maintenance bids, and early indications are they will market accordingly. And while equipment manufacturers appear more hesitant (their sales have fallen more sharply than those of material suppliers), they too are discussing and planning ad spending--while still holding back at the start of the year. But more than one equipment manufacturer indicated his company wasn't likely to cut marketing spending any more than it already had, with the same company having some discussions about actually increasing its ad budget as we get deeper into 2009. Many contractors put off buying new equipment in 2008 and might even try to delay large purchases in 2009. But eventually people in business have to reinvest in their business; as one manufacturer told me, "No fleet gets younger." So just as contractors know they need to have a presence in their local market if they are going to succeed, manufacturers know they need to maintain a presence in the industry if they are going to succeed, and most are going to market accordingly. Interesting economic indicators, for sure. Because what is often the first thing that gets cut in times of budget crunch? Marketing. That despite the fact that it's marketing that can actually carry a company through a difficult period.