I generally consider myself an optimist. My wife gets sick and tired about me talking about the glass half full. But I can also be a curmudgeonly cynic especially when it comes to conflicts between small business and government regulation. And then when talk turns to the current economic situation, I guess I’m a little of both the optimist and the cynic.

I do believe sincerely that the economy is finally coming around as it relates to the woodworking industry. There have been lots of positive recent signs of life. The return of major machinery suppliers such as Stiles, Biesse, and Weinig to the AWFS show in Las Vegas is wonderful news. These companies make a very serious investment to bring their machinery to a major trade show and have it up and running for effective demonstrations to potential customers. A willingness to make such investments is a good sign of an optimistic outlook for the economic future of the industry.

“There must be a pony.”

But optimism can’t last unless it is rewarded. I’m reminded of one of Ronald Reagan’s favorite jokes. He told of a little boy who was such an extreme optimist that his parents thought steps needed to be taken to curb his enthusiasm. They presented him with a huge pile of horse manure, but much to their dismay, the boy dug right into it. He told them that with so much manure, “there must be a pony in there somewhere.”

Our challenge is to not let all the manure get in the way of our search for the pony. That means, just as suppliers have shown a willingness to stick their necks out for the future of the industry, manufacturers need to loosen the locks on their wallets and make appropriate investments in the technology that will drive their businesses forward.

There are lots of concerns and uncertainties about the impacts of new legislation such as the health care bill on the cost of employment and expansion. But there are also some bright signs in the extension of bonus depreciation for machinery investments and it President Obama’s recent suggestions that he would take steps to cut red tape for new enterprises.

So, whether it’s horse manure, red tape, or the 6 feet of snow I’m currently buried under in New England, I guess it’s time to get out the shovels and move forward. I know there’s a better economic future for us all in there somewhere.

Have something to say? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.