The AFCEA West conference and trade show in San Diego this week was far-and-away stronger than it was last year. This year the show saw reasonably crowded aisles, plenty of uniforms, happy exhibitors, and actual business interest inside the booths.
Last year we saw none of that. Inside the San Diego Convention Center AFCEA West exhibit hall last year: crickets, scowls, and aisles so empty you could shoot a cannon down them without hurting anyone.
Last year a colleague stopped me in the middle of the exhibit hall and said, "Hear that?"
"No," I replied. "I don't hear anything."
"Exactly," he said.
This year, what a turnaround!
Few exhibitors and attendees I talked to were disappointed with AFCEA West this year, which is the annual West Coast trade show sponsored by the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association. The hall was vibrant and busy. We saw uniforms from several U.S. military services -- even the Air Force, which is rare for this typically naval-dominated show.
As for me, I'm stuck in San Diego for an extra day while I wait for that monster winter weather front to clear out of the Eastern part of the country where I live. Stuck in San Diego where it's 77 degrees, in February. Poor me; it's tough duty out here.
Meanwhile, I'm heartened at what I saw at the AFCEA West show this week. Sequestration is in the rear-view mirror, defense companies are starting to plan and seem to be emerging from a long slumber. Customers are eager to buy.
With all the dismal news we've seen in the military technology market over the past year or so, it makes me wonder ...
... maybe we've turned a corner.