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Optimism Energizes AIA Business Conference
by George Kotelly, Technical Editor
During the first week of February, the Automated Imaging Association ( AIA ; Ann Arbor, MI), a North American trade group of more than 200 machine vision member companies, celebrated its 20th anniversary by holding the highly successful 12th Annual Business Conference in Orlando, FL. The conference was awash in a wave of industry optimism from nearly 160 attendees, the highest number since 2001.
The international event attracted executives, technologists and professionals from 16 countries, who networked for two days and rigorously discussed new business insights, contacts and relationships on both national and international levels. The major outcome of the conference, said virtually every attendee, was that the machine vision marketplace would grow dramatically during this year.
In his opening remarks, John Stack, AIA President and President of Edmund Industrial Optics ( Barrington , NJ ), offered his impressions of the previous week's Photonics West trade show as to the industry's business economy. According to Stack, who also served as the Moderator of the conference, the market drivers were as follows: the semiconductor industry is coming back to life, nanotechnology is emerging with an urgent need for machine vision, the medical industry is surging and the homeland security arena is getting stronger.
Setting up the positive tone of the conference, Sam Kahan, Senior Economist at the Federal Bank of Chicago ( Detroit , MI ), forecasted the global economic outlook for 2004. He claimed that global economic activity is on an upswing and that the United States is the fastest growing region. The U.S. economy is ?firing on all cylinders,? said Kahan, with solid well-balanced growth. The main reasons: the nation has rebounded in capital spending and manufacturing output, inventories are low and need restocking, productivity is up and consumer spending and housing are still at high levels.
According to Kahan, the European Union is likely to grow by about 2%, almost double its pace of the past three years, with growth fueled by capital investment and consumption. Although Asian economies are expected to continue strongly, he added that China faces the threat of rising inflation and that Japan is bogged down by deflationary forces.