2010— The year ahead

Dec 21, 2009

It’s that time of year again. Time to dig out my crystal ball (I keep it in my sock drawer, in a pile of rarely worn argyles for safe keeping) so I can try to get a glimpse of our future ahead. By all indications, this year is going to be a doozy! Here is some of what I see for 2010: Unemployment is still holding back the economy. Double-digit unemployment will ease back into the 8% range by summer. Real unemployment is, of course, worse, because so many people are working but making less, due to hours restrictions or pay cuts. The unemployment rate will remain much higher for architects, interior designers, and landscape architects than other A/E/P professionals. We’ll work through the “shovel-ready” government projects and get back into a design mode. This will, of course, do much more for A/E/P firms. More firms will be shut down by banks that won’t tolerate endless violations of line-of-credit covenants. This will be a marked change from banking practices of the past, when it rarely happened. The devaluation of commercial office space is going to hurt banking relationships for those firms that own their own buildings and are highly leveraged. When their three- or five-year notes come due and they are upside down on their loans, this, too, will contribute to their banking woes on their credit lines. Housing will show continuing signs of recovery ONCE the lending mess is solved. Low appraisals and pointless hoops to jump through are killing the mortgage lending field and knocking the wind out of the recovery that wants badly to happen. Some sort of national health care reform will pass early in the year and clear the way for health care institutions to start spending real money on facilities once again. The college and university market will once again be one of the strongest sectors for our industry. With recovering endowment portfolios, combined with increasing enrollments (unemployed or underemployed people tend to go back to or stay in school), it has to bode well. The Green Movement, led by firms such as Wal-Mart, will create entirely new service lines for A/E/P and environment firms that want to pursue it. 2010 will be the year of “green.” Other strong markets will be airports and aviation facilities, roads and bridges, nuclear power (it’s back!), and many federal government sectors. Weak markets will be office and retail, K-12 (who can pass a tax increase?), and almost anything industrial other than warehouse and distribution. Popular management and wealth-building book authors will issue sequels such as Who Moved my Cheese, Again?, Good to Great to Mediocre, and The Millionaire Who Used to Live Next Door, in attempts to revitalize their own careers. And, finally, Tiger Woods will prove, once again, what an incredible athlete he really is, as mistress #’s 17, 18, and 19 (identical triplets) present themselves and tell their story to the world. The seemingly endless stream of Tiger love partners will keep Oprah from going through with her planned retirement in 2011. So there you have it. My crystal ball is overheating and getting a little cloudy... so I have to put it back into the sock drawer until this time next year. Good luck, All— you will need it in 2010. Originally published 12/21/2009

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