Happy New Year, everyone. The doors have closed on 2010, and by all accounts, we've ended in a somewhat up mode. Economic pundits say that the economy is recovering slowly, the world financial markets are beginning to stabilize, and manufacturers in the HVAC industry have seen shipment improvements over the previous two years.

So now it's 2011. It's the time of the International Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigerating Exposition (AHR Expo) in Las Vegas where the stage will be set for the new year. Back in October, HPAC Engineering published a news item from the management of the Expo who had conducted a survey of exhibitors to see what the consensus was on the 2011 outlook.

As we reported in October (http://bit.ly/gLHIjM), more than half of the 1,000 manufacturers surveyed expect 2011 to be a better year than 2010, with the commercial sector being the largest demand segment (66-plus percent), especially in the renovation/upgrade markets (39.3 percent).

Construction spending through November was slightly up (0.4 percent), but according to Ken Simonson, chief economist for the Associated General Contractors of America, the overall construction industry, remains, "fragile."

"Public construction reached a 16-month high in November," Simonson said in a Jan. 3, 2011 press release. He went on to point out that public construction will decline in 2011 because of the tapering off of military projects, Gulf Coast hurricane work, and stimulus projects.

That sounds a bit pessimistic.

Don't worry, there's more pessimism to go around. There are many doom-and-gloom predictions that the economy will collapse this year and the country will stumble into a double-dip recession. Economist Arthur Laffer, known as one of the most bearish economists in the U.S., predicted back in June that our economy will collapse. I hate pessimism.

According to others, the steadfast unemployment rate is another indicator that disaster is on the way. In a Forbes magazine article titled, "Jobs Report Be Damned, Economy Chugs Higher" (http://bit.ly/g0nsc2), writer Sy Harding poo poos this glass-half-empty opinion by explaining how unemployment doesn't play as big a role in the economy as other factors, such as measurements of consumer activity, retail sales, home sales, auto sales, consumer sentiment, factory orders, and so on.

"Unemployment," he writes, "is a lagging indicator. Employers do not hire additional full-time employees until after the economy has recovered so much that their present employees cannot keep up with improved business."

According to Harding, consumer indicators continue to improve. Among reports in recent weeks that came in better than forecasts, were consumer sentiment, retail sales, home sales, construction spending, auto sales, and factory orders.

So, it seems the economic recovery is continuing. The manufacturers surveyed by the folks at AHR expressed optimism for 2011. With that event happening at the end of this month, get ready to put some fire in your bellies and check out the latest in technology, products, and services that can help you help your customers to be more successful and productive in this new year.

Be prepared: The Las Vegas Convention Center will be teeming with the HVAC industry’s brightest who will be there to visit the more than 1,800 exhibitors.

I can already feel the optimism rising.

Send comments and suggestions to mike.weil@penton.com.