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Adios to an annus horribilus

British history buffs among the Canadian Plastics readership might recall that, on the heels of several of her children announcing plans to divorce their spouses, topped off by Windsor Castle almost b...


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November 1, 2009 by Canadian Plastics



British history buffs among the Canadian Plastics readership might recall that, on the heels of several of her children announcing plans to divorce their spouses, topped off by Windsor Castle almost burning down, Queen Elizabeth referred to 1992 as her annus horribilus, a Latin phrase meaning “horrible year.”

Anyone out there care to join me in applying said phrase to describe 2009 for the plastics industry?

While not the Great Depression-like disaster that some were forecasting in late 2008, the recession of 2009 — Canada’s first in nearly 20 years — did indeed turn out to be pretty bad…not just for plastics, of course, but for the manufacturing sector in general.

But as we get ready to bid good riddance to the old year, here’s a modicum of good news: according to the Bank of Canada’s stats, the recession in Canada might have ended as early as the final weeks of summer…at least for parts of the country. There’s good news on the job front, too: Statistics Canada said that the country’s unemployment rate fell for the first time since the recession hit last October to 8.4 per cent in October 2009, as the economy created 30,600 net new jobs.

In the U.S., meanwhile, the recession finally ended in August in one out of every five metro areas of America, especially in the Midwest and Great Plains, according to the latest Adversity Index from Moody’s Economy.com and msnbc.com.

None of this means that plastics processors are suddenly going to have money tossed at them from every direction, of course, but it does seem as though some of the pressures of the past 14 or so months are loosening slightly.

In some respects, however, caution still remains the default mode — and rightly so. Partly on the heels of disappointing attendance at the NPE2009 show in Chicago in June, for example, the new owner of the Plast-Ex show decided not to roll the dice by having that event go ahead in June 2010, but instead postponed it until June 2011. (If you’ve been hiding out in a Gaylord lately and haven’t heard the news, see the story on pg. 8) It strikes me as a sensible decision, and the industry members that I’ve spoken with — many of whom are planning to exhibit at the show — seem relieved, frankly, not to have to worry about it for another year, at which point the economy will hopefully be stronger.

At the end of the day, then — or, more specifically, the end of the year — the news isn’t all bad for our industry. Indeed, one of the best pieces of news is precisely that it is the end of the year; 2009 — our annus horribilus — is finally over. And as the economy shows signs of stabilizing, projects that were put on hold last September by molders’ customers are beginning to get green lights to go ahead. If you listen closely, you can hear processors talking about 2010 with something approaching cautious optimism.

Like our old friend Queen Elizabeth surveying the wreckage of Windsor Castle back in ’92, the companies that have survived this recession are no doubt a little singed around the edges — but, more importantly, thankful to have escaped the blaze with their skins intact, and determined to rebuild and forge ahead with new plans, for new markets, in the future.

So, to all of you reading these words, congratulations — you’re still here.

Here’s hoping that 2010 is the year that we begin turning things around.

Mark Stephen mstephen@canplastics.com


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