As someone who’s facing more than $50,000 in college tuitions next year (and that’s for public, in-state universities), I grab onto any indicators that the economy is improving.

They’ve been slow, but they are arriving.

Woodworking companies are spending money on technology to improve their productivity.
Show managements for the two recently held woodworking fairs in Italy are both claiming visitor numbers in the tens of thousands. While I did not attend Technodomus, I was on hand for Xylexpo and can attest to the high interest shown in the new technology for both solid wood and panel processing. Many of the exhibitors I spoke with said that this year, more than ever, the serious buyers were out in force, interested in upgrading and purchasing new equipment to put in place before year end. (Read more about the panel processing and solid wood technology seen at Xylexpo.)

Companies are expanding their facilities
Another hopeful sign that times are improving is the move by Kitchen Magic into a new 62,000-square-foot facility in Pennsylvania. In the news story, company President Brett Bacho said, “The new shop floor provides a tremendous gain in efficiency which will better serve our clients.” The new facility includes a showroom that will be open to the public during business hours.

Furniture orders are up
Also posted recently on WoodworkingNetwork.com, Smith Leonard PLLC reported that new residential furniture orders were 13% higher in February 2010 than February 2009.
This marked the fourth month in a row that orders were higher than the previous year’s same month comparison.

This reinforces what we found in February, when we surveyed the American Home Furnishings Alliance as well as other associations in the woodworking industry. Almost unanimously, they predicted an upturn in sales by the end of the year — if not sooner. (See Wood & Wood Products’ article: Gauging the health of the Woodworking Industry.)

It’s not just supposition. At the recent K/BIS, many of the cabinet manufacturers we spoke with said they are already seeing the tide turning. Many of the companies exhibiting at the show said they used the downtime to develop new colors, options and whole lines, which they are now introducing to consumers.

What have you been doing to ensure your competitiveness when the economy gets better? I’d love to hear from you.

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