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Optimists See a Rosy Year Ahead, and They are Right… Maybe

Diesel powers lots of construction work, but probably the best fuel of all is optimism.

Mon March 16, 2015 - National Edition
Construction Equipment Guide

Diesel powers lots of construction work, but probably the best fuel of all is optimism. Before the first engine is powered up on a project, optimism has fired the imagination of a project owner, who is persuaded that letting of contracts is a certain precursor to reaping profits. Absent such optimism, projects stay idle.

“We have reason for optimism in 2015,” says Portland Cement Association chief economist Ed Sullivan. He reports that talking to exhibitors at World of Concrete in Las Vegas in February revealed “unprecedented, unbridled optimism that has been absent for a decade. And there are palpable reasons for this.”

Palpable is good. Optimism sometimes is grounded in wishful thinking. While such thinking still tends to lift the sights of the thinker, it doesn’t always pan out, which is discouraging. Having clearly evident reasons for feeling optimistic almost turns optimism into realism: Everyone can see the good things coming.

So it is that Worlds of Concrete exhibitors see concrete flowing in 2015. Their thinking is keyed to economic data showing millions of net new jobs in the U.S., falling unemployment rates, low oil prices, a low inflation rate, and a probable surge in new home construction. Given all that, the outlook is understandably upbeat.

A year ago, the ConExpo-ConAGG and IFPE gathering in Las Vegas generated similar optimism. ConExpo organizers said they discerned “momentum building in the industry.” In the end, 2014 didn’t turn out to be a truly banner year, but enough progress was made to suggest that growth was sustainable. Worlds of Concrete participants are even more convinced of that today.

So arguments for industry optimism are strong. Yet pessimists are not the only ones still concerned about an uncertain highway bill and funding… unresolved health care issues… unclear immigrant labor availability… continuing congressional dysfunction… and so on. Even optimistic project owners are crossing their fingers.

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