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WaterShapes LogotypeBy Eric Herman

Although I’ve done it on a couple occasions through the past 11 years, I’ve always had trouble writing columns that welcome a New Year – even when times have been good and there have been reasons aplenty for lavish doses of optimism.  I just don’t like clichés, and they’re amazingly difficult to avoid when you look to the future with no clear idea of what’s to come.

The last thing I want to do right now is hold out hope for instantly better times.  The past two years have been swallowed up by the most brutal recession of my lifetime, and I get the sense that all of you might gag if I wrote about blue skies, puppies, silver linings and the coming of a new dawn.  This is, in short, a time for weighing and acting upon hard realities rather than indulging in greeting-card aphorisms.  

You don’t want a hollow pep talk, and I don’t much feel like delivering one.

For all that, however, my assessment of the current situation leads me to believe that we are indeed headed for better times – not out of the weeds just yet, but making significant progress on many key fronts.  The economy is growing again, the housing market has stabilized, and I even hear murmurings about new residential construction having turned a corner.

That’s all interesting macro-level stuff, but what has me more fascinated these days are the anecdotes I’m hearing from watershapers coast to coast.  A great many of you start by thanking your lucky stars that you work the custom market and had the foresight to spend the past several years upping your game and figuring out better ways to serve affluent clients.  Then some of you tell me that you’re nearly as busy as you’ve ever been and, in many cases, that you have the sense you’ve broken through into a whole new marketplace that isn’t so subject to the whims of the general economy.   

I’m even more thrilled to hear from these professionals that inquiries, leads, requests for proposals and bids are all up – way up in some cases – and that if just a fraction of those jobs come through, 2010 might be a banner year.  

In the midst of all this, we now know that swimming, hydrotherapy and aquatic exercise of all kinds are getting great press these days.  I also can’t help loving the fact that the projects crossing my desk are, in many cases, light years more advanced than those I saw five or seven or ten years ago, both aesthetically and technically.  And then there’s the environment:  We know that a “Green Revolution” has arrived and is exercising a strong influence on how watershaping’s top professionals are approaching the future.

Facing facts in the clear light of day, we should view the year to come as one requiring retrenchment and reconsideration, but also as one that will carry abundant opportunities for growth to those enterprising enough to rise to the occasion.

Bottom line?  I have the feeling that the phrase “Happy New Year” may well be more poignant and prophetic than it has been in times past.  Dig in – and have fun!

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