The annual World of Concrete show opened its doors in Las Vegas this week with better moods and traffic. The estimated attendance of 50,000 was an improvement over 2011, but 10% less than just two years ago.

Photo by Tudor Van Hampton
Attendance at this year's World of Concrete is expected to reach 50,000, slightly higher than last year's 48,554.
Photo by Tony Illia
While some longtime large exhibitors were missing this year, smaller independent dealers picked up the slack.

"There is a tinge of optimism," said Ed Sullivan, chief economist for the Skokie, Ill.-based Portland Cement Association, on the first day of this year's show in Las Vegas. "Only recently have we seen the job market begin to tick up." During the show, Sullivan unveiled his prediction of flat growth in the construction industry for 2012, with only marginal gains by late next year.

Vendors shared that optimism, though they admitted that much of the current spending is due to replacement, not new construction.

"People's equipment is just wearing out," said Steve Guillaume, vice president and general manager of Continental Mixers, adding that housing needs to rebound before concrete spending picks up from peak levels in 2007.

Pavement spending is likewise in need of a rebound, though few attendees believed that Congress would manage to pass a multiyear transportation bill in this election year.

"I think it will be fairly difficult," Guillaume said. "But you might see some sustaining spending, as a stopgap."

The show runs through Jan. 27.