Unless you staked a claim to a piece of land in a remote swath of wilderness and have been living the life of Thoreau at Walden Pond, your experience over the past few years of the Great Recession probably feels as if each time you pulled yourself up off the mat, there was another punch in the stomach waiting for you. So as we begin the 2012 campaign, most folks, including yours truly, seem to be tiptoeing about, looking back and forth, waiting for the next batch of bad news to come. However, for the sake of kicking the new year off with a touch of optimism, the following items in particular have me entering 2012 with a little more hope than I have in recent years past:

1. According to the Institute of Supply Management’s Dec. 1 Report on Business, economic activity in the U.S. manufacturing sector expanded in November for the 28th consecutive month, and the overall economy grew for the 30th consecutive month. The report, which is based on data compiled from purchasing and supply executives nationwide, shows that while world markets remain turbulent, U.S. manufacturing has trended upward for an extended period.

2. According to a year-end report by Industrial Info Resources, project construction starts in North America posted positive growth in 2011 when compared to the year prior, up an impressive 29.9 percent. Industrial Info reports firms in North America have continued to invest capital equipment and maintenance outlays in select sectors such as oil & gas, renewable energy, automotive, and mining.

3. Finally, based on my conversations with end-users and equipment suppliers, 2011 was, by most accounts, a strong year. And while there is concern about the European debt crisis, the risk of prolonged gridlock in Washington, and general uneasiness following the harsh period of recession we seem to be emerging from, the folks I chat with on a day-to-day basis are mildly optimistic.

Taking the aforementioned items as a barometer of more promising times to come, I enter 2012 with lessons learned through the struggle of the past few years.

1. Don’t Get Wrapped Up: Faced with an onslaught of bad news and truly shocking events — say, for example, AAA-rated financial institutions going kaput — it was, at times, difficult to see anything but doom and gloom ahead. My solution was to stop looking toward the future and push forward with a bull-headed short-sightedness focused on the goals of the day. Hours became days, days became months, months became years, and I got a lot of work done along the way. Now, as I take this opportunity to look up, the landscape seems a bit more promising.

2. Seize the Opportunity to Self-Reflect & Reinvent: Here at Flow Control we’ve used the past few years of recession as an opportunity to self-evaluate and bolster our foundation. Among the most obvious examples of our recent efforts along this line are the introduction of a fully redesigned website and the hiring of our new managing editor, Amy W. Richardson. Now, as we enter what appears to be the early stages of an upswing, we are well-positioned to capitalize on business opportunities as market conditions improve.

3. Recognize Your Good Fortune: Finally, going forward, perhaps my most important lesson learned is that I need to be more mindful of my good fortune. When I look back to late 2007, early 2008, the thing that sticks out in my mind most is that I didn’t realize how well things were going. I was so focused on keeping up with all of the work we had to do that I never took the time to truly appreciate our situation. Now, however, I do take a minute here and there to recognize how fortunate I have been to have made it this far with my job in tact and no real financial turmoil to report. And with this in mind, my heart goes out to those who haven’t been so lucky, and I wish you all good fortune in the year to come.

– Matt Migliore, Executive Director of Content