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Philadelphia execs more optimistic about recession's end than 6 months ago

A KMPG survey indicates they see a trough occuring in 2009, rather than 2010.

Philadelphia-area board members and executives are increasingly convinced the end is near. That is, the end of the recession.

KPMG L.L.P., the big accounting firm, holds regular roundtable sessions of its Audit Committee Institute, which seeks to improve the effectiveness of boards' audit committees. It also surveys attendees about various issues, such as the economy.

In December, KPMG asked how long business leaders thought the downturn would last. About 72 percent answered 18 to 24 months, seeing no bottom until well into 2010.

On May 27, KPMG asked again. This time, 54 of the 90 respondents, or 60 percent, said they expect the U.S. economy will hit reach a trough in 2009.

KPMG asks the same questions in about 30 cities, and the sentiment here matches the creeping optimism nationwide.

That's encouraging to Jerry Maginnis, managing partner of KPMG's Philadelphia office. December's downbeat reaction spurred him to write an op-ed piece in which he said that while "caution is certainly prudent, total retrenchment may not be."

At last month's roundtable here, Maginnis said his informal conversations revealed a "sober acknowledgement that these remain very challenging times." But people also said their organizations are working to make their business processes more efficient and strengthen their balance sheets, Maginnis said.

If they are, that's a good sign that managers are starting to move beyond the short-term fixes of cutting jobs and slashing expenses.

Wear Shades

While I think a solar energy conference really ought to be held outside, PV America will beam into the Convention Center for three days this week.

Put on by the Solar Energy Industries Association and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineering, the conference is geared toward those in the industry who want to learn about new technology.

But on Tuesday, the PV (stands for "photovoltaic") America Expo in Exhibit Halls A & B will be open to the public for free between noon and 8 p.m.