Taking a look back at the columns I’ve written every January for the last few years, there seem to be two main themes: the AHR Expo and the recession.

Sorry if you were hoping for something different: I won’t be breaking any new ground this month, either. The AHR Expo is always a big deal, especially when it makes its return to Chicago’s McCormick Place convention center - only the HVAC industry seems to be so gung-ho about heading to a very chilly Midwestern city in the coldest month of the year, but it works. A near-record crowd is expected Jan. 23-25.

A new year always brings optimism, and that extends to the HVAC and sheet metal industries. The expo is always full of exhibitors and attendees who are hoping construction’s long recession is over and it’s back to busy business and growth. The reality, unfortunately, for the last five years or so has been once the exhibitors head back home, much of the industry continues its sluggish ways. That has certainly been the case for many of those involved in sheet metal whom I’ve talked to.

And yet, I am starting this year feeling a little more positive. At the Heating, Airconditioning & Refrigeration Distributors International conference in Hawaii last October, Alan Beaulieu, the association’s chief economist was confident there would be no double-dip recession. He even encouraged members to give their employees a raise this year. Maybe it was the weather or just the mai tais that flowed from the hotel bars, but HARDI members seemed to be feeling good about 2012, even if Beaulieu and Mike Workman, the conference’s other keynote speaker, warned them the heady, moneymaking days of 2006 were not coming back anytime soon.

Fabtech shines

Further bolstering my confidence were the exhibitors at November machinery show Fabtech, many of whom also seemed to have a good turnout at their booths. One exhibitor involved in sheet metal and HVAC fabrication told me they talked to more companies involved in HVAC this year than in past Fabtech shows.

So here’s hoping the momentum continues into the AHR Expo this month. (By the way, I recently conducted an interview with Ron Jarnagin, the current president of the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers on what’s coming up at the society’s winter meeting, which is always held in conjunction with the expo. You can hear it or download it to your portable device at www.Snipsmag.comor through Apple’s popular iTunes Store.)

Lastly, time is getting short if you’d like us to feature your collection of old Snips issues in our 80th anniversary issue scheduled for March. As I’ve written here and posted online at Snipsmag.com, we’re looking to hear from readers who think they have the largest collection of back issues or the oldest. I’ve heard from readers with all issues going back to the early 1990s and a few copies as old as the 1950s, but Snips has been around since 1932. Surely there must be a reader with an old issue dating to the 1940s or even earlier somewhere.

If you have one, email me at mcconnellm@bnpmedia.com. You can also contact us through our Facebook page,www.facebook.com/SnipsMag.