It’s easy to be a forecaster, be it of weather, the economy or football games. You simply take today’s trends and extrapolate them into the future. See that low pressure system building in the West? It means storms in the Midwest a few days later. If the stock market is rising, it’s reason to get bullish; if it’s dropping, the bears growl; if it gyrates, Wall Street babbles about roller coasters. When football teams match up, those with the best records win more often than not.

What forecasters can’t foresee are unanticipated changes. When’s the last time you heard a weatherperson predict a sudden shift in direction for that low pressure system? How many economic gurus are going out on a limb to foretell dramatically different fortunes this year than last? Tell me of a sports prognosticator who predicted the last-place Indianapolis Colts to get their first win of the season past by beating the defending Super Bowl champs from Green Bay?

Such forecasts take guts, or foolishness. Call me brave — or call me a fool — but I’m going to go out on a limb predicting some things to happen in the next few years that may not be readily apparent right now.

  • Home Depot buys a consolidator. I’ve heard not even a rumor to this effect, but it makes sense. Home Depot needs an installation and service arm. Right now they refer customers to independent contractors, most of whom work cheap and act the part. These installation partners for the most part are out of sync with that organization’s professionalism, and only in fairy tales do royals get hitched to paupers.

    What’s more, Homey’s market researchers have to be looking with trepidation at the aging boomer population, who with each gray hair become less and less inclined to tackle home improvement projects. The acronym HID (“have it done”) has been coined as the flip side of DIY to describe this crowd. Home Depot employs some of the most brilliant marketers in the Milky Way. Surely they’ve thought of service and repair as a way to compensate for declining DIY business.

    Sears, which wants to grow to a $10 billion home services company, may also be in the market to buy a consolidated PHC entity, as will certain utility companies. Who else might have the $1 billion+ it will take to purchase the likes of ARS, GroupMAC and Service Experts once they finish building their empires?

  • Unions make a comeback. We may have seen the beginning with last year’s public support of the UPS strikers. People are starting to sense injustice at the widening gap between the haves and have–nots, and worry about their own middle–class existence.

    Also, building owners are becoming fed up with shoddy construction—though they have nobody but themselves to blame with their relentless quest for bargain basement prices. With tenant complaints and rework on the rise, the premium price of union labor starts looking like a better deal.

    Right now, the building trades are too busy shooting themselves in the foot to take advantage of these favorable circumstances. They are trying to get back into the picture with a sue-happy strategy that manipulates labor and environmental laws. It may take them a few years to realize that negative marketing, as epitomized by their “salting” tactics and code warfare, leads nowhere. Once they learn how to sell what the marketplace really needs — quality work and fair compensation for those who provide it — they will be poised to regain public affection.

  • Construction becomes chic. Time was when jeans with holes in the knees were to be discarded, or otherwise a sign of abject poverty. That was when only women purposely poked holes in their bodies, and then only in their earlobes. Remember when crewcuts were the rage? Then long hair? How did we ever get to today’s happy medium?

What I’m saying is, fashions come and go. Right now, the trades are about as unfashionable as it gets for any line of work. I predict that someday this will change.

PHC work is real. Craft work may have lost its appeal, but the need for it never disappears. People will always require sanitation, comfort and convenience, and thus there will always be value attached to those who provide it.

PHC work is rugged. This is hard to sell in our victimization era when the nation’s collective consciousness holds wimpiness to be a virtue. But wait. Just as family values have been resurrected in large segments of society, the time will come when trade work once again becomes a badge of honor standing for strength and skill.

And let us pray for the day when hard hats become a fashion statement replacing pierced noses and nipples!