Every January economic forecasters come forth with tidings of new year prosperity. It never ceases to amaze me that forecasts always point to an economic recovery occurring in the distant future. Never this quarter or next, but in Q3 or Q4. As the US is a quarterly, stock market driven economy, the promise of plenitude continues to reach further and further into the haze, fueling nay sayers and perpetuating more stagnation!

The "Evil Economy Syndrome" is my name for this forecasting postponement practice. Keeping in tune with our acronym laced society, we’ll just refer to it as EES. EES should not be confused with President Bush’s Evil Doers or the Axis of Evil. In this case, the EES villain is our sluggish economy. EES seems to be ever-lurking in the shadows, preventing a more prosperous economy from seeing the light of day. A major contributor to our depressed economy is anxiousness over the threat of military conflict in Iraq and North Korea. Certainly big overshadowing concerns, both of which are punctuated by the collapsed Argentinean economy, on our own continent.

So, is there a magic bullet or miracle fix to eradicate EES? How can a little printer compete against the giants? The top 100 US printing companies have a combined revenue of about $44 billion. Eleven of those companies, all with revenues in excess of $1 billion, account for 62% of this volume. If we believe the rumors or study the trends, the mega-printers like RR Donnelley and Standard Register might just gobble up the smaller operations. One recent example of this trend is Standard Register’s $89 million acquisition of Canadian based InSystems Technology, Inc. According to Denis Rediker, Standard’s CEO: "This acquisition is an important step in implementing our strategy of being a strategic thought partner to customers in improving business results by leveraging information". The acquisition helps Standard Register address broader industry trends, including the convergence of insurance, banking and other financial services, and an increased emphasis on security. This acquisition also puts Standard Register squarely into the content management business.

Don’t be misled by the massive size of a Standard Register or RR Donnelley. They are big, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be responsive to customer needs. Neither does it mean they can possibly handle all of the business. Nor should you think you need to be as large in size for you to offer similar services.

There are many solutions on exhibit at this year’s Graphics of the Americas show which are good for a small business and can also be scaled to a billion dollar business. No matter what service you feel a need to offer, you can find a technology solution that is right-sized for your business needs.

An excellent suggestion for elimination of EES was made at this year’s GraphExpo by former Labor Secretary Robert Reich. During Xerox’s Lew Dobbs hosted Town Hall event, Reich commented on the capital investment theme. "Since interest rates are at all-time decade lows, now is the time to make those capital expenditures that you have been putting off". When businesses postpone purchasing and business expansion decisions, the continuance of a sick economy becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy.

Quoting an old Pogo cartoon, "We’ve seen the enemy, and he is us". We are either part of the problem or part of the solution. You just need to do the analysis for your own business and invest in new technology, i.e. digital workflow, new presses, new services. Putting new technology in one place is one way that trade shows really benefit our business. Do your part to improve the economy, be part of the solution.