Lattatudes

Better Roads Staff | May 7, 2012

A view from across the pond

By John Latta

by John Latta, Editor-in-Chief -- jlatta@rrpub.com

It wasn’t postcard Paris. It wasn’t one of those enchanted springtimes the city can unfold. It was cold, windy, cloudy and it rained a lot. It was, to say, the least, unpredictable weather. At least three times I sheltered from a heavy rain, small hail and biting wind combo only to find less than ten minutes later it was clear-skied, hot, a little bit humid and eye-squintingly bright. But only for ten minutes, then back into the cycle. Ah, but it was Paris.

This year’s huge Intermat international construction equipment show in the tough northern suburbs of the city was something of a hard week to read without the metrics, and I won’t have those in time for this column. It had an uneven feel. There were good days and ordinary days for vendors. Some parts of good days were better than others. The weather probably had something to do with it, and this is Europe where Paris is so easy to get to that a lot of visitors probably planned an overnight trip and could choose their day. Outside exhibitors including the big cranes and live earthmoving demonstrations, suffered a little bit with the weather, but there were enough sunny hours to keep them relatively happy.

The show left no doubt that the global market for construction equipment is a huge factor in what happens right here at home. Russia was a big surprise, getting a lot of attention as perhaps the quickest-growing market. Brazil and India are not far behind. Consider that China is about 51 percent of the global market for construction equipment. And the show was packed with Chinese manufacturers big, small and in-between, looking at any and all markets.

It can be an odd show for Americans as you head to booths with the familiar name of a major U.S. OEM only to find there is no-one there from stateside and the machinery on display is to be sold only in Europe and Africa. It helps you realize the truly global reach of these big players.

But by and large American companies seemed to be pretty happy with the traffic to their booths. I got the impression I was seeing the slow climb out from recession continuing to be a steady, predictable, bankable process. Some of the profit and production numbers for American corporation were impressive, and their optimism, including an increasing commitment to spending R&D money, was equally encouraging. I’ll think they’ll come home well satisfied. I did.

Ah, Paris. The bistros and the boulevards, the museums and the Metro, the wines and cheeses. Ah, oui. But man, it’s good to be home.

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