CONEXPO 2014 Reflects a Construction Economy Flexing its Muscle

Attendance demonstrated the energy of a genuinely recovering construction market, equipment introductions reflected a range of manufacturers' outlooks from guarded optimism to opportunistic innovation

Anybody taking the temperature of the construction economy should be encouraged by CONEXPO-CON/AGG 2014. 

Attendance numbers at construction's big triennial trade show, held in Las Vegas March 4 through 8, reflect the industry's energy. Show organizers, the Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM), had set a goal of 125,000 visitors; they achieved it by the show's half-way point. Total attendance of 129,364 fell just short of the show record, but CONEXPO-CON/AGG 2014 set new records for exhibit space, number of exhibitors and education tickets sold.

Association and manufacturer economists offering construction-economy outlooks for 2014 that ran from Caterpillar's "cautiously optimistic" to Associated General Contractors' "very upbeat."

The U.S. Census Bureau's numbers for total January construction spending, released the day before the show opened, outpaced 2013 by 9 percent. And the strengthening housing market has Terex CEO Ron DeFeo anticipating pull-through demand for nonresidential construction. But show attendees were talking about the construction economy's big question-mark: federal highway-construction funding -- in a Case-sponsored Dire States panel that featured a former chairman of the U.S. House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee chairman, James Oberstar. And wherever the 2014 outlook was being discussed.

Most product news from the biggest names in construction-equipment manufacturing hung close to development required by emissions compliance. There were lots of machines on the show floor with engine upgrades in the 175- to 750-hp band that were required to comply with U.S. EPA's Tier 4 Final exhaust regulations in January. For example:

Ambitious smaller players made some bold moves. For example:

Contractors Initiate Fundamental Change in Equipment Costs