Uponor convention attendees see signs of improving economy.

Dale Stroud, director of Business Development for Uponor, speaks at the 2012 Connections convention. Photo by Bob Miodonski

Uponor welcomed 800 contractors, manufacturers reps, wholesalers, engineers, employees and other guests to its2012 Connectionsconvention April 11-12 at the Bellagio in Las Vegas. The Las Vegas meeting, which Uponor conducts every two years, featured educational workshops and networking events.

The opening ceremony, moderated by Senior Manager of Brand ManagementIngrid Mattsson, introduced new Uponor North America PresidentBill Gray. "We at Uponor simply want to be a better partner," Gray told the audience. "You'll see us finding the middle ground so that we all can prosper. Our education program stands as a tangible, physical sign of our willingness to partner with you."

Also addressing the crowd on the first day was Uponor Corp. CEOJyri Luomakoski, who had traveled from the company's headquarters in Finland. He talked about the importance of meeting with customers at events like these to find out about their changing needs during challenging economic times.

Director of Business DevelopmentDale Stroud(pictured) picked up the economic theme. He pointed to a number of indicators that show the economy is improving.

"Housing starts are going up," he said. "This is not wishful thinking or hope; housing starts are increasing. Home sales are starting to increase, although not quite as much as housing starts. The inventory of unsold single-family homes is at an all-time low, so demand for new homes will increase."

Stroud displayed a map of the United States, which showed strengthening areas around the country as expressed in the Improving Markets Index. He also cited the Architectural Buildings Index, which has been up in 10 of the last 16 months, including the last four in a row. The ABI is viewed as an indicator of nonresidential building activity, although the gap between billings and actual construction can be nine to 12 months. A more immediate measure is nonresidential construction put-in-place, which is going up too, Stroud said.

More good signs are the unemployment rate dropping to 8.2% and numbers that show consumers are spending more. "The Consumer Confidence Index is at its highest level in more than four years," Stroud said.

Breakout sessions on the second day of the show covered residential fire sprinklers, plumbing with PEX piping, thermal heating systems and radiant cooling. An Engineering Summit addressed topics of interest to plumbing and mechanical engineers who design systems and specify products for nonresidential buildings.