It's true that many companies are still gasping for air after a horrendous 2001, and a 2002 that hasn't started out much better. While many economists now say the recession has already bottomed out and that a recovery has already started, they aren't working at the electrical contracting firms now seeing jobs being cancelled and bidding wars won by competitors willing to take work at any price.

While the business picture still isn't all that great, you don't have to look too far to see that some good things are still happening in this market.

Electrical manufacturers are still investing in new product development. While this is the most horrendous business climate that most electrical manufacturers have seen in more than a decade, new product rollouts have not stopped. In fact, from the amount of new product introductions at some of the trade shows that CEE News editors have attended in recent weeks and the volume of press releases sent to us promoting new electrical and voice/data products, new research and development seems alive and well in the electrical industry. In next month's issue, CEE News will feature some of these products as finalists in its second annual Product of the Year competition, where manufacturers enter products judged by a panel of electrical professionals.

School construction, home building, and, in some regions, office construction remain strong. As you read in last month's ElectroForecast, pockets of growth still exist in some markets, particularly in the construction and renovation of elementary schools, high schools, colleges and universities, as well as new construction of homes with home networking products. The most interesting aspect of this work is that much of it involves new-technology products that carry with them new business opportunities such as low-voltage security, computer networking, voice/data and audio/visual systems and energy-efficient electrical products.

A new educational tool has just hit the market that will help electrical contractors learn home networking. At last month's BICSI Winter Conference, the association launched its Residential Network Cabling Training and Registration program. For more information, call BICSI at (800) 242-7405. BICSI also just published Residential Network Cabling, a book on the home networking market. In a few months, CEE News will be running excerpts of this book, authored by Arlyn Powell, former editor of Cabling Installation and Maintenance magazine and the project manager who oversaw the development of this book.

CEE News is kicking off a new “Business Basics” department. Electrical contractors may be wiring wizards, but their business skills often are not well developed. That's why starting with this issue, CEE News magazine will be running excerpts from the book, Successful Electrical Contracting, published by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and authored by CEE News Contributing Editor Paul Rosenberg.

The go-go years of the 1990s may already seem like a long time ago, but there's enough good things going on in the electrical market to get us through these tough times.