James Taylor and the Lumber Truck

Last week we treated ourselves to a James Taylor concert at Tanglewood.  Although we have been to Tanglewood many times for classical performances, and despite my huge fandom of Sweet Baby James, I had never been to this now famous yearly event.  The place was filled like I had never seen it.  Folks camped out end to end, lawn to lawn.  It was a real festival atmosphere, and it took us a full hour just to exit the parking lot. During the worst of the recession, business was pretty tough for us, and I would not have dreamed of spending $75 for three of us on such a luxury as going to see a concert.  I take it as a sign of economic recovery that 30,000 or so (my guess) would drive to Lenox for the evening (times three nights!) and shell out the dough to be crammed onto that lawn for several hours.  By the way, the concert was great except that too many people talked through the whole thing.

The concert event is anecdotal evidence of course, of an economic recovery.  We constantly search the news for additional signs of recovery, picking apart the data.  We are optimists in my family, choosing to ignore the naysayers and tell ourselves how much things are improving.

Here is another anecdotal story.  I remember in the depths, sometime in 2009 I think, I attended a networking dinner at the Builders Association of Greater Boston.  At the time, this was a group of folks mostly crying in their beers every time we go together, but it was therapeutic, you know?  Someone then excitedly informed our small group that on their way over, they had witnessed a truck driving down the Massachusetts Turnpike.  And can you imagine, it was filled with lumber!  It was like seeing a ghost.

Such was the state of the economy three and four years ago.  Since I am in a design and planning profession and at the leading edge of the economic cycle, my business started to tank in 2007 with the collapse of the condo market.  It really turned around for good in 2011, with many new design contracts coming in toward the end of the year.  Now I drive down the major roads and view one construction site after another; builders and developers racing to get their projects in the ground to beat the competition to market.  Retail, rental housing, subdivisions, or office space, there is plenty of activity.

Yet reports of a dead economy are still coming from my colleagues in the central part of the state where little is happening, so the news is mixed.  And I certainly am aware of pockets of despair throughout the rest of the country.  As I was driving toward Boston on the Pike the morning after the JT concert, I saw a truck filled with lumber, and my optimism was rekindled.