Here’s how you really know things are getting better

I like numbers, statistics, all the information that allows us to track the health of an industry and the general economy. And as I wrote in our outlook article in the January issue, those numbers all show 2014 was a pretty good year for the boating industry (and Boating Industry, for that matter!) and the economy in general.

But looking forward, confidence can be very important and difficult to measure.

One indicator I've always liked to look at is the quality of events and speakers at industry shows and conferences. I like to call it the Bush-Powell-Holtz theory*. (Seriously, stay with me here.)

With that in mind, you've got to be excited about the Miami show this year. The new product launches are getting bigger, the events are getting more impressive and there is more of them. It's all an indicator that more companies are confident in the continued growth of the industry. It continues a trend we saw last year of manufacturers hosting more events for the media and their dealers to get the word out.

We've got big intros and events coming from Volvo, Yamaha, Mercury, to name just a few.

If there was one thing I learned covering the housing market for a dozen years, it's that the smart companies know what's going on before most people do. The coming housing downturn was a constant topic of discussion within the industry for years while the consumer media was still blabbering on about how to make money flipping houses. A lot of the biggest players in housing started pulling back their marketing well before the rest of the country even knew there was a housing crash.

*As for the Bush-Powell-Holtz theory, it was something I coined in 2009 when I was still working in the housing industry. (Unfortunately, the blog site I wrote this for has long vanished into the ether, so no link.) My take on it was that you could tell how far the health of the housing market had fallen during those roller-coaster years by looking at the keynote speakers, from the early 2000s of Rudy Giuliani (in 2002, at the post-9/11 height of his fame), President George H.W. Bush and Colin Powell to the later group that included comedians and coaches who's careers peaked in the 80s.

And don't even get me started on the 2011 Keynote Speaker Aron Ralston, the hiker who cut off his arm to save his life. The metaphorical possibilities of that one nearly make a writer's head explode.

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