From the Publisher - 2/1/2008

After a particularly long period of relative prosperity, the U.S. economy is sputtering. The stock market is around 12,200 as I write this, down from around 13,500 a couple of weeks ago. There is “doom and gloom” across the land — newspaper business editors are worried that foreign investors will end up owning the

After a particularly long period of relative prosperity, the U.S. economy is sputtering. The stock market is around 12,200 as I write this, down from around 13,500 a couple of weeks ago. There is “doom and gloom” across the land — newspaper business editors are worried that foreign investors will end up owning the U.S. TV and radio talk show hosts are interviewing recently laid-off workers in low-paying jobs like those in the textiles industry.

Behind the media circus, however, there are undeniable realities: retailers are reporting disappointing holiday sales, American automakers’ quarterly losses are setting records and the mortgage industry is on life support. Yikes! What to do?

Many politicians are calling for temporary “stimulus” packages. Some have proposed personal tax rebates, but these pose inherent problems, i.e., they’re temporary, they ultimately have to be paid back and they’re usually too late to do much good! Meanwhile, the Bush Administration’s tax cuts, scheduled to end in 2010, may not be made permanent. This makes it more difficult for businesses (the real economic drivers) to assess risk and plan long-term investments that would secure profit and provide high-paying jobs.

On the brighter side, some politicians and many economic gurus are suggesting a cut in the corporate tax rate, from the current 35 percent to 25 percent. This would give businesses, such as automakers, extra cash to reinvest in new plants or upgrade existing plants to make them more globally competitive. Others have proposed faster or even immediate write-downs on capital investments, which would more directly stimulate new equipment investments. Also in the wind is the possibility of even greater tax consideration for research and development. It seems inevitable that Congress will review the tax code within the next two years. If pro-business realists win out, it might provide an especially good stimulus for composites manufacturers.

Despite the current downturn, market analysts forecast double-digit annual growth for the composites industry during the next decade. While the aerospace composites boom will play a part, the experts say that much of the predicted growth actually will come from new industrial, infrastructure, energy and automotive applications. For example, the U.S. wind power industry grew by 45 percent last year, with seven new turbine manufacturing facilities going in and more on the way. Given today’s high fuel prices, composites will inevitably be a part of lightweighting strategies for trains, planes, automobiles (see “Engineering Insights,” under “Related Content, at left) and buses (see “Inside Manufacturing,” at left). With an infinite range of combinations and design possibilities, composites now are being considered for use in more applications than ever before.

That’s why I’m confident that our September COMPOSITESWORLD Expo in Chicago is the right time and place to bring the entire composites industry together to show the world what composite materials and manufacturing processes can do. The world-class Renaissance Schaumburg Hotel & Conference Center offers easy and inexpensive access for exhibitors and attendees alike. Situated just 10 miles from O’Hare International Airport and minutes from downtown Chicago, COMPOSITESWORLD Expo 2008 promises to attract attendees from traditional and new end-use markets from the U.S. and around the world.

COMPOSITESWORLD Expo 2008 will be the most widely publicized composites event in the world. We’re circulating promotional materials not only to the nearly 40,000 subscribers of Composites Technology and sister magazine High-Performance Composites but also to an additional 300,000-plus qualified technicians, decisionmakers and specifiers who subscribe to Gardner Publication’s magazines in manufacturing markets outside the composites arena. For that reason, our two-track conference program will have, in addition to its highly technical track for industry veterans like you, an introductory program designed for engineers who are new to composites.

We will bring together notable experts in all phases of composites design and manufacturing to ensure that attendees receive a first-class educational experience. The conference program is coming together and should be out in early April — I’ll keep you posted.

Mark your calendar to attend COMPOSITESWORLD EXPO 2008. We look forward to seeing you there.