Who remembers the old Magic 8 Ball (I believe that’s the proper commercial way to write it)?

Ask the ball a question, shake it and the answer you were or weren’t looking for was right at your fingertips.

A little behind-the-curtain here: The ball only had 20 answers because it contained a 20-sided dice with 10 positive answers, five negative answers and 5 “vague” responses. I always liked the vague ones.

Those vague responses kind of translate into how 2023 might or might not shape up from an economic standpoint. If you monitor this kind of thing on a regular basis, you’ve seen data/prognostications all over the board going back to last year. Recession? No recession? Inflation this. Inflation that.

At one point in 2022, there was talk of a downturn occurring in the latter part of 2023.

On the other side of the coin, ASA conducted its first Quarterly Market Survey in the fall of 2022 and the results flipped with 2/3 of respondents to the survey saying they expect to see some sort of a downturn at the beginning of 2023.

If you would like to snag a copy of that report and the even newer Quarterly Market Survey that dives into a ton of HR-related topics such as salaries, health insurance and employee recruiting, shoot me an email at mmiazga@asa.net. The neat thing about these surveys is the questions being asked come from ASA members, not ASA staff or third-party companies. These are the questions your friends, colleagues and competitors want answers to.

What isn’t vague in nature is all the great things we have cooking here at ASA as we dig into 2023.

When it comes to keeping your finger on the pulse of the economy, ASA chief economist Dr. Chris Kuehl does just that through his live monthly ASA economic update webinars (a free member benefit) and through his three-times-a-month podcasts (also a free member benefit) where Dr. Kuehl zeroes in on a specific topic of great interest to ASA members. If you have a topic you would like Dr. Kuehl to address on either the webinar or his podcast, shoot it over to ASA Data and Market Intelligence Manager Bri Baresel at bbaresel@asa.net.

On the benchmarking side, look for more of those quarterly market surveys in 2023, along with an improved presentation to our longstanding monthly sales report that keeps ASA distributor members updated with a monthly quick-hitter on business and industry conditions.

If you don't have a training program, have one but need a little help or have a world-class one and are looking to take it to even greater levels, ASA University can help.

ASA continues to have our members’ backs both on Capitol Hill and at the state level on the legislative side and on the codes and standards front. In fact, we’re excited about the return of the live ASA Capitol Hill legislative fly-in that will take place March 28 and 29 in Washington. Check out asa.net for more details. I would encourage you to hit up the ASA News section in this issue and read ASA Government Affairs Director Steve Rossi’s analysis of the current political landscape coming out of this last election cycle. As usual, Steve does a dynamite job giving an easy-to-understand lay of the political land. It’s a must read.

When it comes to education, ASA University is the only employee training resource directed specifically to the PHCP, industrial and mechanical PVF industry, built from the ground up by members actively working in the industry. ASA-U combines online and traditional learning to address the needs of new and/or seasoned employees. If you don’t have a training program, have one but need a little help or have a world-class one and are looking to take it to even greater levels, ASA University can help.

We’re also excited about the continued progress of three long-range strategic initiatives. PROJECT TALENT continues to be a go-to resource for help with attracting new talent into your organizations through the SupplyIndustryCareers.com website and the Recruiter Toolbox that is loaded with thousands of downloadable digital assets that can help in your company’s talent recruitment journey.

The ASA PROJECT VITALITY Growth Assessment Survey is a key tool that can help your company assess its readiness/preparedness when it comes to growth and success in the future. Through a confidential survey administered by New Edge, ASA’s partner in this initiative, member companies are challenged to think differently about their businesses and raise their awareness about their positioning for the future. The survey can help identify company’s strengths and weaknesses and show them areas to invest in to support their future goals.

And ASA’s D.NEXT innovation lab at the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana continues to explore the roles, practices, perceptions, trends and technologies that power today’s supply chain. The lab’s recent research on how successful distributors are sharpening their vision to strengthen customer relations is a must-read. If you would like a copy of that study, including a pyramid diagram that depicts elements of a distributor’s relationship with their contractors, shoot me an email at mmiazga@asa.net.

Finally, don’t forget about ASA’s three major national networking/education events. Our continually growing Women in Industry group heads to Charleston, South Carolina April 11-13 for its ELEVATE2023 conference, while the Emerging Leaders are off to Savannah, Georgia May 10-12 for EMERGE2023. And NETWORK2023, the industry’s biggest event of the year, takes place Nov. 8-10 in Orlando, Florida at Signia by Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek. All the great details on these events are available at asa.net.

Here's to the Magic 8 Ball giving a big thumbs up for a prosperous 2023.