2009 may be one of those years many people are happy to say “good riddance” to. Come to think of it, a lot of people said the same about 2008.

The economy in most parts of the country, already in rough shape, seemed to get worse than it was last year, and the unemployment rate continued its steady climb.

Attending a few trade shows this fall, it was clear the recession has been taking a toll on attendance. It’s also caused a number of show organizers to revamp their schedules, perhaps boosting the number of educational sessions and cutting back on expensive afternoon golf outings or evening cocktail receptions.

When times are tough, those who do leave their businesses to attend conventions want something helpful to take back with them more than a tax-deductable vacation, I imagine.

So where do you think things are heading next year? I don’t like to be negative in my columns. I consider myself an optimist, but I’m realistic as well. Many of the experts I have heard from say they think things will be a little better next year, but it will be some time - about four years - until construction activity returns to the heady levels of 2007.

Unlike most previous recessions where businesses quickly began hiring and spending once the downturn appears to have ended, many economists expect business owners to be much more cautious this time. That means hiring and investment may be slow to return. The tight credit market can’t be helping either.

As in past years, we have used this issue to offer some educated guesses on where the HVAC and sheet metal industries are headed in the next year. But what do you think? We’d like to hear your prognostications on where the market is going as well as reports on what’s going on in your market. Are you making any money? What are you doing right?

Send me an e-mail at mcconnellm@bnpmedia.com. We might use you as a source for a story or reprint your comments here. Please include your name, title, company location and a way to contact you.

If there is some good news, it may be that the recession appears to be “officially” over, according to government statistics released in late October. The U.S. economy grew 3.5 percent between July and September - the best figures in two years. Unemployment figures, however, are expected to continue to climb.

So will sheet metal and HVAC contractors experience an uptick in business? We’ll see.

Snipsmag.com September poll