Imagine 130,000 people descending on Las Vegas in the dead of winter and packed into about one square mile of space. That's CONEXPO/CON-AGG, an international trade show held every three years. To say it's a big event is a gross understatement. Vendors introduced almost 1,000 new products and services (click here for 26) in five days. I'd have needed a jet pack to see them all.

Among the booths I did visit, however, I noticed a trend of particular interest to small- and medium-sized public works departments: manufacturers developing tools for crews to self-perform work like sidewalk placement and pavement recycling using equipment common to virtually every department anywhere in the country, things like pick-up trucks and backhoe loaders.

Targeting this particular market niche means manufacturers feel the recession’s over. A lot of public works departments cut staffing and equipment inventories to the bone during the recession, though. The question now is how many have the bandwidth to do work in-house.

Does your agency self-perform work like our June 2013 Project of the Month (building with pre-cast concrete), December 2013 Department of the Month (sign-making), or April 2014 cover story (roller-compacted concrete road reconstruction)? Why — or why not?

Feel free to comment below or e-mail me at sjohnston@hanleywood.com. Also let me know if you'd like to be considered as a candidate for our Department of the Month or Project of the Month.