As I write this editorial in late January, the administration of President Barack Obama is only a few days old, but the HVAC and sheet metal industry is already following its moves very closely.

And early reports say it may have several things to cheer about.

In a January e-mail to members, the Air Conditioning Contractors of America’s government relations director, Charlie McCrudden, wrote that the $800 billion Obama and Democratic leaders are hoping to spend to jump-start the economy includes tax credits for homeowners to upgrade their heating and air-conditioning systems.

Then I saw an Associated Press report that cited a financial analyst who said the money Obama wants to spend on government infrastructure and energy-efficiency improvements could be good news for the industry’s publicly traded HVAC equipment makers.

Such actions can’t happen soon enough for many contractors and sheet metal companies, which have seen sales and profits sink with the national economy amid tight credit markets. Banks aren’t lending, so even if they wanted to buy equipment, many simply can’t.

That reality was reflected in our December online poll We asked visitors if the tight credit market had affected their businesses. Of those who responded, 65 percent said they had been affected. Customers either can’t get loans for purchases or the owners have trouble themselves borrowing money.

The prospect of a big push to install higher-efficiency furnaces and air conditioners, along with incentives to get banks lending, has many contractors hopeful, even if the owners of these companies were not supporters of Obama’s candidacy or politics.

Not impressed?

But apparently, that optimism doesn’t extend to many visitors of our Web site. While national polls show Obama with exceedingly high approval ratings for his first days in office - when admittedly, he cannot do much yet to upset citizens - our own unscientific poll of Web site visitors shows they are less than impressed.

Our January poll asked what visitors thought of the new president’s plan to spend more than $700 billion - it’s since been raised to well over $850 billion - to stimulate the ailing U.S. economy. By more than a 2-to-1 ratio, our visitors gave the proposal poor marks.

The results were similar in November, when we asked if readers thought Obama’s election would help the economy.

We’ll soon find out. By the time you see this editorial, the bill should have been signed into law and the money starting to flow. The effects will be debated, but it will certainly be making news. If you or your company ends up working on projects related to the stimulus package, please let me know.

On another subject, the annual AHR Expo just wrapped up in Chicago. It was clear that crowds were smaller than past Windy City shows. It seemed to me the attitude of exhibitors going into the event determined whether or not they were happy coming out. Those who, despite the recession, expected a typically huge show seemed bummed, but people who had lower expectations were quite happy. And although many banks aren’t lending, some contractors had money to spend, judging by the “sold” signs on several pieces of sheet metal equipment I saw while wandering the floor. And staffs at those booths were very happy indeed.

You will see full show coverage, including official attendance figures, in a future issue of Snips as well as our Web site.

Results of January poll

The incoming Obama administration is expected to move quickly to implement an economic stimulus package likely to be more than $700 billion. It will probably include money for construction projects and U.S. infrastructure improvements. Do you think this will eventually help jump-start the economy?

Yes.With unemployment rising, it will help put Americans back to work and money in their pockets. Perhaps some sheet metal and HVAC companies will be able to secure work on some of the projects.

No. I don’t think adding to the national debt is going to help anything or anybody. Our grandchildren will eventually have to pay for this.