Attitudes are meaningful. That's one reason surveys measuring consumer and purchasing manager confidence levels are watched closely by Wall Street investors.
So it's a little encouraging that processors polled in our annual economic outlook survey, featured on Page 1 of this issue, have largely positive attitudes about their companies, and the overall economy, in 2006.
It's no surprise we're not at the lofty expectation level of our 2000 poll. There are too many concerns that are too important to ignore - led by energy prices and international competition.
Other key concerns, according to our poll, include raw material pricing, health-care costs, availability of qualified workers, customer cutbacks and interest rates.
Still, after all that processors experienced in 2005, the fact that 41 percent still said they expect their company to be more profitable in 2006, and another 39.6 percent said ``about the same,'' is wonderful news. Likewise, 33.6 percent expect higher capital spending in 2006, and 34.5 percent expect their staffing levels to increase (and only 6.2 percent predicted a decrease).
We've been reporting on the plastics industry long enough to know that this isn't an economic sector populated by Pollyannas. A lot of processors will tell you their troubles with just a bit of encouragement, and there's certainly plenty to complain about.
But the executives who responded to our poll in December have reason to be a little optimistic. They - and you, since you're reading this - are survivors. You made it through an awful slump for North American manufacturers. If you think that's not a big deal, take a look at your Rolodex - especially if you haven't cleaned it out in a few years.
You might be surprised by how many cards you end up throwing away. Executives who were victims of downsizing ... managers at plants that have closed ... customers and suppliers whose companies have been consolidated out of business ... and tons of processors and mold makers whose names are no longer part of our annual rankings.
Being a survivor is a heady thing.
Besides the economic attitude questions, here are some other snippets of interesting information from the poll:
* Nearly half, or 45.5 percent, said they plan to attend NPE 2006 in Chicago. Of the rest, about half said they were not interested, and the rest said attending would be too expensive.
* Processors believe public attitudes about plastics are pretty good. Asked to rank attitudes on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the best, some 12.7 percent picked 4 or below. The most common picks: 8, at 26.4 percent, and 7, at 30 percent.