State of Mind

A recession can be defined as a state of mind, at least according to one noted economist. He's even coined a new oxymoron for it: a “growth recession.” Rajeev Dhawan, director of Atlanta-based Georgia State University's Economic Forecasting Center, says we are experiencing a period of slow growth that “feels like a recession.”

His concept is as much a comment on Americans' emotional state as it is on the state of our economy. At the heart of this problem is our unbalanced view on the subject. On one hand, consumer confidence continues to fall, while on the other, consumer spending grew at a 2 percent rate during the first quarter of 2001. Another recent report also showed a decline in inventories.

This emotional conflict appeared at this year's WasteExpo, too. “People came into this year's show concerned about the economy, but in the end, our floor space increased from 220,000 square feet to 242,000 square feet, and our attendance went up 4 percent,” show director Rita Ugianskis told me. Combined with a 9 percent increase in attendance last year, WasteExpo has grown by 13 percent over two years.

Of course, any economic slowdown eventually will affect our industry, just as increased fuel costs will affect the overall price of anything that moves in a truck. If your customers are slowing down, you can bet their trash will be lighter. In the end, however, your business depends on your entire customer base, one increase balancing another's decrease.

And don't forget about the value of hard work and good planning. Your business was built on it and will continue to prosper because of it. WasteExpo couldn't be reporting its growth without it, either. “The customers know what they want, and if you listen, they'll tell you,” Rita says. “That's been a large part of our success.”

She also noted that trade shows tend to reflect what is happening in an industry, but if you listen between the lines, you can see that WasteExpo mirrors the times. “Many people came to the show prepared for the worst, and it turned out quite well,” she said adding, “and isn't that what's happening in the economy, overall?”