The principal sponsor of CONEXPO-CON/AGG said people who attended the show March 22-26 in Las Vegas were not just window-shopping. They were buying.

"The buzz on the floor is so positive," Dennis Slater, president of the Association of Equipment Manufacturers, said toward the end of the week. "People are coming here to buy." Attendance totaled 120,000.

Exhibitors serving the concrete production industry also saw heavy traffic throughout the five days. However, they are eagerly waiting to see how that traffic and a slowly improving economy translate to sales.

"Basic fundamentals are starting to improve," rank Nerenhausen, president of ready-mix truck manufacturer McNeilus, told TCP. But, he added, "Customers are still wary of the market. The basic fundamentals are starting to improve but there's not a lot of confidence in the future yet."

Nerenhausen noted that Texas was one market that has started to improve. "When things come back, it will be at a moderate level," he said. "I can't see companies flipping their fleets all in one year."

Producers have parked their fleets to various degrees, depending on how severe the recession hit certain markets. Nerenhausen estimated one-half of ready-mix trucks may be parked in Las Vegas, a city especially hit hard by the economic slowdown, while only 5% of trucks may be parked elsewhere.

An official with batching equipment manufacturer Liebherr put the current market in a unique perspective. "As evidence of the new market reality, today we celebrate an improved market which is just one-third of the peak," said Duane Wilder, president of Liebherr"s construction equipment business based in Newport News, Va.

Business started to improve last year. "The recovery gained strength as the year progressed," Wilder said. "In spite of the absence of a long-term extension to the Highway Bill and perhaps driven by fleet replacement needs and an improved business attitude after the fall elections, business is slowly beginning to return."

Construction equipment manufacturer Caterpillar says the recovery in the U.S. and North American is lagging behind other areas. "Things are picking up very strong everywhere but the United States," said Chairman and CEO Doug Oberhelman. "We"re seeing a slow pickup in North America. We"re always coming back from abnormalities throughout the years, and we will this one."

Sustainability and technology were the major themes of the week for Caterpillar. "Three years ago we were just starting to talk about sustainability," Oberhelman said. "Today, it"s everywhere."

On the tech side, all of the personnel who were manning Caterpillar's 35,000-square-foot exhibit in the North Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center were assisting visitors while taking notes iPads. This information will be pored over after the show. Visitors were also encouraged to download an app for their smart phones so they could scan product tags in the booth for more information.