In a recent online survey of members and associate members of the Investment Recovery Association, we asked what the economy’s potential impact might be on their IR activities, changes in travel and training budgets, likely attendance at the upcoming Scottsdale conference and more. Here’s what you had to say. 
 
Q. In your opinion, how do you see the overall economy performing in 2011?
If 88% of the members and associate members responding to the survey are any indication, the overall economy for 2011 will be either “about the same” or only “somewhat better” than 2010. (Results evenly split at 43.75%.) Only one person felt the economy would be “much worse” and 7.5% felt things might be “somewhat worse.” Five optimists indicated the overall economy would be “much better” in the year ahead. (There’s a pony in there someplace!) 
 
Q. If the economy continues its modest improvement, some companies will begin to replace older equipment. Do you see this happening in your organization? (And if so, what impact do you think that will have on your activities, budgets, etc.?)
Typical of the prevailing opinion of a modestly improving status quo are the following comments:
 
“We will see moderate equipment purchases for 2011. Large scale capital equipment will be very limited.”

“Budgets will remain pretty tight for 2011, so I don’t see a lot of older equipment being replaced unless it is absolutely necessary. However, as older equipment is replaced in time, it is normally disposed of through the IR group, therefore increasing the work load.” 
 
And from other members, “If the economy continues to improve I know that older equipment will be looked at for replacement. This would be because the budget will be opened up more. With that, we will hopefully become busier and sell more items at better prices.”
 
“We will see moderate equipment purchases for 2011. Large scale capital equipment will be very limited.” 

Speaking for virtually every IR professional with an ambitious workload and too few resources to complete it, one member noted, “Yes, I believe we may see some replacement in the years ahead. It will simply add to my already busy project schedule!” 
 
Utilities less impacted 
Members in the public utility and oil & gas industries are perhaps somewhat less impacted by the ups and downs of the economy and could likely relate to the following:
 
Due to the type of service we provide (i.e., Public Utility), the slowed economy has not had too much of an impact on our ability to continue to update technology and equipment. Although IR profits have been down compared to previous years, I see us maintaining a steady pace.”
 
Another utility member put it this way, “We are a regulated business and our capital projects are based on long term planning and regulators approval, so our projects are generally not impacted by the economy.”
 
And, “I do see some re-conductoring upgrades in the future (as an Electrical Utility) if the improvement continues. This will provide transformer upgrade possibilities as well as copper and aluminum scrap recovery.”

Another utility member had this to say, “Utilities trail behind the rest of the economy to recover. We will not likely see our business recover until 2012 or 2013, and it will not likely be as good as before the recession started. Our asset recovery group was cut in half and budget significantly reduced in 2010 and no improvement is planned for 2011.” 
 
One investment recovery manager put it this way: “Our equipment is our business, so while we’re unlikely to embark on any frivolous upgrades, we will continue to invest in equipment that allows our customers to do more with less. In that regard, the universe of reclaimable assets will remain relatively unchanged. The biggest impact the economy is having on my business is actually the expansion of my reach as departments identify IR as a new way to contribute to the bottom line.” 
 
One member looked at things from a broader perspective: “Older equipment and facilities will begin a faster pace of demolition and replacement. With like/kind exchange and other incentives, I see resurgence in activity. North American facilities are now aging and in need of updating. If we do not do this, we will fall behind the emerging economies so that we cannot maintain a strong manufacturing base. The upgrading is essential to all of us as well as our national security (economic security).” 
 
And perhaps to underscore the value a professionally managed IR function provides, “If that is the case, my investment recovery synergy efforts will place a decent sum of money back to our plant locations.” To which we say, “Amen!”
 
Q. Over the last several years, travel and training budgets have frequently been quite limited. Have you seen these improve for 2011?
Apparently travel and training budgets lag economic improvement. Only 20% saw even a “somewhat improved” budget for this year. The vast majority (over 78% of those responding) saw either no change or “still bad for 2011, but likely better in 2012 (14%).” But one lucky individual saw a “much improved” budget! (But who knows how drastically it was cut previously.)

Q. Will you be attending the conference in Scottsdale?
Travel and training budgets obviously have an impact on attending the now-yearly Investment Recovery Seminar & Trade Show (this year scheduled March 6-9 in Scottsdale, Arizona). But even though these budgets are still obviously tight, it appears from the sample of those responding to the survey that attendance will be substantial, with 65% saying that either they will be traveling themselves (57%) or someone from their company will (8%).

NOTE: Anticipating limited travel and cut-backs in training budgets at least for the near term, the Board of Directors changed from a twice-yearly conference to once-a-year beginning with the 2010 Investment Recovery Seminar & Trade Show held in New Orleans. In addition, the association launched regional IR Lunch & Learns last year. Held successfully in Houston and Philadelphia last year, the concept has continued with the recently completed event held in Los Angeles, January 27. 

Q. Why are you not attending the Scottsdale IR Seminar & Trade Show?
We wondered to what extent travel and training budgets affected attendance at the annual Investment Recovery Seminar and Trade Show. It’s a significant commitment of time and dollars. Budget restrictions were mentioned as a primary reason for not attending, and scheduling conflicts came up as well. Here’s a representative sampling of what we learned relative to the 35% who told us they were not going to be attending this year:
 
“Not attending due to budget/travel restrictions.” (Numerous similar responses.) 

“Would love to come however the time of the conference conflicts with our refueling outage.” 

“Only one can travel and I felt the person attending would benefit from the seminar.”

“Bypassing this year because of an increase in workload and budget. Will look to attend in 2012.” 

“Our CEO will be in the area for other business and will attend in my stead.” 

Attending the conference this year? You Bet!
Dozens of people that are planning on attending are doing so for the excellent investment recovery education and networking opportunities that are at the heart of the 4-day event. Some of the comments from members provide insight into just how valuable the only event of this type is for investment recovery professionals: 
 
“The PRIMARY reason is to maintain contact with our network, as well as receive valuable information and innovative ideas.” 

“Education, trade show, networking, CMIR certification.” 

“Networking opportunities abound.” 

“Professional development & Trade Show.” 

“Of particular importance are discussions with vendors and with peers. Networking is at such a high-level at the conferences! You can’t do it better in any another forum.” 

“A combination of my own professional choice and a commitment to the Association and fellow investment recovery professionals.” 

“I will be attending the conference to meet peers and network.” 

“I’m attending the trade show to see what’s available to help in Investment Recovery.” 

“I get much practical information from the seminars, enjoy the networking and am working on my CMIR as well.” 

“To network with like-minded professionals.” 

“Important to stay current with contacts and services offered.” 

“Last year was my first seminar and I was really pleased with what I took from it.” 

“Putting some faces with names that I have dealt with in the past and meeting new people and creating some new opportunities.” 

“It’s a great networking tool. It’s nice to put faces with names and buyers we have worked with. It is also a great learning tool in the surplus world. I am also planning to sit for my CMIR certification.” 

“Keep current with latest trends.” 

“I’m excited … this will be my first I.R. seminar and trade show!” 

“Attend seminars to learn more on asset valuation and marketing as well as networking with peers and potential vendors.” 

“Out of the profession for a couple of years. Returning member enrolled in the CMIR education program and want to obtain my designation.” 

“It’s been over 3 years since anyone from our company has attended. We want to reconnect with other IR professionals and take advantage of the educational & networking opportunities.” 

“Last year was my first year of attendance, but the depth of experience shared by experts across a wide variety of industries during the conference really shaped my year. Because of the lessons I took away from that conference, I was able to recover over $750,000 in cost benefits for my company in the first year of our IR program and gained corporate support in significantly expanding the program in 2011. I also plan to sit for my first round of exams toward my CMIR this year.”

Associate Members attend for substantial business reasons
A sampling of typical comments follows: 
 
“Out of the trade shows that our company has attended in previous years, the IRA trade show has provided the best results for our company.”

“It’s the only opportunity to network with others in the IR business.” 

“Meet and make contacts leading to business deals.” 

“Networking, taking advantage of seeing and meeting a lot of customers or potential customers at one time in one place, and the overall learning experience.” 

“Trade Show sales leads and maybe some of the seminars.” 

“To learn more about the IR industry and network with others in the IR field.” 

“We will be attending as a Trade Show participant to meet current clients as well as meet new contacts. We also like to see anything new in the industry among other vendors.” 

“Meet new members, see current and continuing members and continue to market our company to the membership.” 
 
In your own words, both members and associates have plenty of good reasons for attending, networking and learning. With 23 seminars, workshops and roundtable discussions and two days of the Investment Recovery Trade Show, the Scottsdale 2011 conference will truly mean business for hundreds of IR professionals! 
 
To learn more and register online, go to InvRecovery.org/Seminar