There's plenty of evidence that the global economy is crawling out of the economic abyss of the last few years. More importantly, in this particular venue, the rubber industry is, too.
No reason to rehash the news of the past: Everyone remembers the harsh times of not-too-long ago. No news really seemed to be the only good news in the rubber business, since it wasn't another report of layoffs, plant closings and companies heading to bankruptcy court.
Like the general economy, the rubber industry's improvement is just what many economists predicted during the Great Recession—a painfully slow, difficult recovery.
At several conferences in the past couple of weeks, a number of industry participants said they have reason for hope. Take these statements, for example:
— “We are seeing continued strength in the consumer and health care markets. Automotive has recovered significantly so far in 2010 compared to 2009.” Chris Claussen, Momentive Performance Materials Inc., at the International Silicone Conference.
— “I think you're seeing a big bounce in areas that revolve around energy or things that are 'going green,' whether it be the solar market or the energy market in general. There's some good bounce there.” Tom Gennety, Bluestar Silicones USA Corp., at the silicone show.
— “I think it definitely will be better than 2009. I think we've wrung some of the exuberance out of the market.” Dan Laur, Laur Silicone Inc., at the Rubber Roller Group meeting.
— “We see some light at the end of the tunnel. There are some good things that are happening.” Tony Costantino, Flex-Tek, at the NAHAD annual meeting.
— “Things are looking up for us. We've doubled our business compared to last year at this time.” Gerret Peters, Puma Polymers L.L.C., at the Polyurethane Manufacturers Association annual meeting.
File these, and similar statements from meeting attendees, under the title “guarded optimism.” That's not a bad place to be.