Participants in an interactive keynote presentation at the American Supply Association's recent convention in Las Vegas projected an economic turnaround sometime next year.

Keynote speaker J. Michael Marks, president and co-founder of Indian River Consulting Group, asked the audience what they projected for the economy over the next 18 months. Participants included 58% distributors, 27% manufacturers and 15% identified as "other," such as consultants and magazine editors.

The response of the total group was: 52% said the economy would be a little better over the next 18 months; 15% said it would be a lot better; 10% said it would stay the same; 19% said it would be a little worse and 4% said it would be a lot worse.

Wholesalers tended to be more positive than manufacturers in this response, with 60% projecting a "little better" economy over 18 months vs. 31% of manufacturers. Only 2% of distributors said they expect the economy to get a "lot worse" vs. 12% of manufacturers.

Asked when they expect to see real evidence of an economic recovery, 41% of the total group responded with "third quarter 2002" and 32% said the second quarter. Another 11% projected an upturn in the fourth quarter and 7% predicted this would happen in the first quarter of 2002. The remaining 8% did not project a recovery in any quarter in 2002.