Attendees at this year’s VMA Market Outlook walked into the meeting room with a bit of shell shock. The stock market fluctuated wildly in the days leading up to the Aug. 11-12 event in Boston following weeks of tough U.S. federal budget negotiations and the downgrading of the U.S. credit rating for the first time in history. Sara Johnson, senior research director of IHS Global Insight, called the events “headwinds” blowing against what had been expected. She said the year 2011 had been filled with such unusual occurrences, including the Japanese earthquake/tsunami earlier that year as well as other natural disasters and political upheavals.
But attendees were soon to learn that outlook speakers, while they admitted some figures might need to be adjusted for the remainder of 2011, felt their overall prediction was on track—the valve and actuator industry will see a brighter 2012.
“I hope as you leave here today, you leave uncertainty behind and realize things are not as bad as you may have thought. There is still force in our sails … it just might be time to adjust those sails to the prevailing winds,” Alan Beaulieu, president, Institute for Trend Research, emphasized.
It’s a different world: There wasn’t much talk this year about looking to the past to respond to the future. That’s because almost every presenter pointed out that the world and this nation are in a unique economic situation. Most said to expect the rocky stock market in the U.S. to remain volatile and that while the nation is in recovery mode, it’s going to be a long steady climb back to the prosperity we experienced just before the Great Recession.
Shining stars burning brightly: India was mentioned by more speakers this year than at any previous workshop. The country began a climb toward prosperity in the 1990s when economic reforms went into effect. It did not suffer the consequences of some other nations during the recent economic woes so it is one of today’s shining stars. Brazil continues to prosper and was mentioned by many speakers as a good place to do business. China is still a tough contender for business, but it has experienced high inflation rates and other challenges that may mean some business returning to U.S. soil.
Renewables are catching hold: This is the first workshop where one session was devoted to renewable energy sources, but it wasn’t just that speaker who explained why. From international reports on global warming to new technologies that make renewables more cost effective to unfavorable attitudes toward coal, speakers gave reasons why wind, solar, biofuels, biomass, hydropower and other new sources of energy are gaining ground.
Shale drilling “rocks”: Any of the speakers who addressed energy, petroleum or related products mentioned the changes in this country that are occurring because of shale drilling both here and in Canada. Gas prices remain low; drilling has increased; more drilling is occurring on-shore; new technologies are increasing outputs; new shale sources are being discovered. All of these shale drilling developments mean less reliance by North America on foreign sources of fuel.
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