I'm very happy to announce that Joe Kelly, EC's popular former associate editor, has returned to serve as the editor. (See the staff masthead on this page). He left us in September 1999 to direct the editorial services of a public relations firm entrenched in high-tech sectors. Joe returns with new expertise in telecommunications, the Internet, and computer telephony technologies.

Joe is sworn not only to maintain the quality of EC's editorial content, but to also improve it. Please give e-mail or call Joe to welcome him home!

Another very important addition to the masthead is Deborah O'Mara, a past managing editor of Security Distribution and Marketing magazine, who will be a contributing editor, authoring a monthly article called "Security Works." This is another step forward in our efforts to make EC representative of all aspects of electrical contracting.

Another important announcement is the addition of Charles R. Miller to author the "Code in Focus" column. Charles brings valuable experience as an electrical contractor to the job. For 18 years, he owned and operated a successful commercial electrical contracting company. Currently, he owns a training company, Lighthouse Educational Services, and in 1999, he wrote the popular textbook on the NEC entitled "Illustrated Guide to the National Electrical Code."

On February 1 we made history.

The United States entered its 107th successive month of economic expansion, breaking the record for the longest recession-free period in American history. Now, with each passing month, we are making history as we speak.

All the contractors I've spoken to see their good fortune tied to the economic indexes to a greater or lesser extent, depending on the many variables affecting each contractor.

Happy days? You bet! But always, after the expression of joy at how wonderful the economy is performing, this nagging doubt invariably creeps up from the lower depths of the cerebellum and manifests itself with a puzzled knitting of the eyebrows. And they say something like, "How did it happen and what keeps it going?" I say something equally compelling like, "Damned if I know." We scratch our heads together.

The fact is, everyone is scratching heads, not just you and I. It's a mystery. The Wall Street pundits, economists, and academics are of one mind - these are very unique times that we live in, times that do not fit the classic theories of economics.

In the past few weeks, I have heard the current economy described by one Wall Street rapper, as "….a giant Ponzi scheme" that will keep going as long as people put money in it.

"It's faith with a little bit of patriotism mixed in," says one contractor.

"I think it's foreign money. This is the country that people believe in," commented another.

"Nah, it's the baby boomers stuffing their money into the IRAs and online trading accounts," said yet another.

I personally enjoyed the story told by Dan Walter, NECA's senior vice president, regarding the Tale of Tulip Mania, which engrossed the Netherlands back in the 1600s. Would you believe that in the 17th century a single high-quality bulb would sell for several thousand dollars in today's currency? Why? Because the country, enjoying a tremendous economic expansion on all fronts, had whipped itself into a frenzy in the buying and selling of futures without possession of real goods. But all "good" things come to an end. In 1637, after prices had soared to fantastic heights, the speculative market in tulips collapsed and many went bankrupt.

I think what's happening is due to a little of all of the above, which is another way of saying, "Damned if I know." I ask you now to join me in rapping our knuckles three times on the nearest piece of wood. Then, enjoy while you can!