The last few months, I have had a chance to get out of the office and attend industry events in New Orleans; Orlando, Fla.; Las Vegas; Toronto; and Tampa, Fla.

While there are still plenty of contractors and sheet metal machinery manufacturers out there who are undeniably hurting, I’m seeing - and hearing - some reasons for optimism.

As I wrote in a March editorial, a lot of the exhibitors I spoke to at the AHR Expo last January were pleased with the booth traffic, and some even said they were surprised. I heard similar comments at CMX, Canada’s biennial HVAC and plumbing event, which took place March 25-27 in Toronto (look for coverage in an upcoming issue). Business was surprisingly good lately, a number of Canadian manufacturers told me, and booth show traffic certainly seemed busy.

And although it’s more anecdotal evidence, some of the staff members of other BNP Media publications here that cover construction say their sections of the industry are showing signs of a rebound as well.

Will it stick? National unemployment numbers seem to be mostly holding steady, and the ranks of those without work are not jumping as they did last year. Overall, the construction industry is still experiencing near-Depression-level unemployment, but even there, signs of hope exists.

I’d love to hear how you or your company is faring. Send an e-mail to mcconnellm@bnpmedia.com and let me know.

On another subject, our circulation department is running its annual push to remind readers to renew their subscriptions. If you haven’t renewed your subscription yet, go to www.snipsmag.com/renew2010 to keep your issues coming.

A new option that we’re offering this year is the chance to convert your print subscription to digital format. If you find that you do most of your reading these days sitting at your computer and would prefer to receive Snips in an interactive “digital” edition, go towww.snipsmag.com/switch2010. Besides saving a few trees, our digital edition comes direct to your e-mail each month and is an exact copy of the print version. It allows you to zoom in and “turn” pages - all with a click of your computer’s mouse.

If you’d like to see how it works, go towww.snipsmag.comand click on the “Digital edition archives” link on the left side of the screen.

Snipsmag.com March poll

Spring begins this month and there are signs the economy may be starting to improve.

How do you feel about the upcoming season?

• Positive – 60 percent

• Negative – 20 percent

• Neutral – 20 percent