Economically, 2008 and 2009 have not been very good years; however, those of you that are in the commercial business generally had a good 2008 but are now seeing some of the same things our residentially geared members have experienced — a significant drop in business activity. I would be remiss if I did not remind most of you that we all had a fair warning on the recession. Perhaps not a warning on the extent of the global financial meltdown, but a warning about the economy from our association economists, Alan and Brian Beaulieu at the Institute for Trend Research (ITR). Alan and Brian presented at our 2006 and 2007 conventions, where they predicted the downturn to occur in 2008. In fact, I have been a subscriber to ITR's monthly publication since 2001, long before HARDI contracted with them, and I can affirmatively state that ITR principals Alan, Brian and Jeff Dietrich, senior analyst, have been forecasting a recession in the magnitude of the 1982 recession since 2003 or 2004. These guys are professionals that are excellent at what they do. What is my point?

First of all, ITR's position is that recessions are a natural part of the business cycle. We cannot avoid them (and our government intervening to the extent it is will have significant negative implications in the future). The key is to know when they approximately will occur and then to take steps to prepare your business for them. Proper preparation and positioning allow you to successfully navigate the rough waters and come out the other side in a better competitive position rather than waiting to react. So, what lesson to take from all of this?

We only have on average 100 of our wholesale members that participate on a monthly basis in our TRENDS reporting program. It literally only takes 10 minutes to complete the form monthly, and then you get FREE access to the quarterly forecasts that ITR does for us in each HARDI region. Those of you who are not participating are missing out on one of the greatest values HARDI offers for your membership. Our manufacturer members can purchase the forecasts at a bargain price and have the information to better position and run their businesses. If you pay attention to what ITR is forecasting, the future is much clearer, and you can position your business accordingly.

I can tell you that I and many others utilizing the ITR forecasts took steps to position our businesses to better navigate the recession and have fared much better than others who were surprised by the severity. I implore all of our wholesale members to participate in the monthly TRENDS reporting and pay close attention to the forecasts. They will make you more effective in managing your business. If you are unsure of how to participate in the monthly TRENDS report, call the HARDI office; they will make sure you receive the form to be able to report. ITR handles all of the data, which assures you of complete confidentiality. If you have any other questions or concerns, call or e-mail me. I would be happy to help you. Participating in monthly TRENDS will help everyone by getting more data and each of our members by providing the insights needed to anticipate economic activity. Thank you for your membership in this great association.