Trying our hand at Pottery

Article January 04, 2002
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Round-framed glasses, dark hair and a British accent.
Standing in my doorway was the one, the only . . . Ken Hughes.

No, it wasn’t the sorcerer-in-training Harry Potter,
but our group publisher was trying to stir up a little trouble nonetheless.

“I have a challenge for you,” he said with a
small grin. “This magazine needs a buyer’s guide, and it would be
best to put one out by ConExpo-Con/Agg.”

Well, here’s our “book,” and as much as I
would love to say the movie is coming out soon I think we’ll stick to
what’s on paper—the ROADS & BRIDGES 2002 Buyer’s Guide.

What you’re about to turn to is the product of months
of research, coordination and determination. It all started from scratch . . .
paper. After sketching out some initial ideas and creative design, a target
list of manufacturers was created and product specification applications were
sent. The response was steady before we formed our own special forces unit and
tracked down the stragglers one by one.

Now I have a challenge for you. Try finding a more complete
blueprint of the equipment industry. This is not the A-B-Cs of listings, where
all you’re left with is who you can contact. The ROADS & BRIDGES
Buyer’s Guide throws numbers out at you—important numbers
pertaining to engine horsepower, operating weight, bucket capacity, paving
width, digging depth and more.

See what the market stocks on its shelves. If you’re
in the motor grader aisle, our product specifications allow you to read the
labels of Caterpillar, John Deere, Volvo and New Holland.

Now all you need is a price and, perhaps, a coupon.
That’s where our A-to-Z company listing comes in, where you can contact
the manufacturer for more specific details and deals.

And, judging by what I heard at this year’s
Construction Industry Manufacturer’s Association conference in Naples,
Fla., store managers are eager to answer the call.

Stuart Varney of Keppler Associates was the first to speak
at the annual event, and before the doors to the Crystal Ballroom of the
Registry Resort & Spa could finish their swing he put a national economy
with very little oil into perspective.

“We are in a recession,” said Varney, who
focused on three events leading into the slump: the bursting of the NASDAQ
bubble, the downside effects of globalization and a sharp decline in consumer
and investor confidence before and after the events on Sept. 11. Since the
terrorist attacks in the U.S., the economy has contracted by .4% and
there’s been a 1% decline in industry production. Even our own American
dollar has turned on us. Its strength is making it tougher to push equipment,
especially used, overseas.

The federal government continues to bucket water off of this
sinking ship. Interest rates continue to be cut and are the lowest in decades,
and Congress is working on an economic stimulus package. The deal could send a
charge through the highway and bridge building industry. At press time, the
House of Representatives passed a $99.5 billion version that included a $5
billion accelerated spend down of the Highway Trust Fund and the reinstatement
of the Investment Tax Credit.

Still, more construction jobs offered by the federal
government and state DOTs does not necessarily transfer over into more invoices
for manufacturers. If that was the case there would be a piece of new equipment
on every corner during this time of TEA-21.

And the rental companies aren’t singing, either. Of
the majors, only United Rentals reported any significant growth over the last
three quarters. Makes you wonder just how much spending juice will be there when
the time comes to replenish inventories.

During this economic sinkhole we know each purchase faces
tougher screenings than ever before. We hope our first-ever buyer’s guide
becomes your smart, little companion through it all.

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