I have been a lifelong Chicago Bears fan. Whether it was Dick Jauron, Mike Ditka or "Papa Bear" George Halas coaching, the team always stuck to the basics. The game plan was always conservative-run the ball for three downs and then punt if they didn't get a first down or score. It may not have been imaginative, but it worked and produced championship teams. And on occasion, the fans were treated to a quarterback such as Jim McMahon, who would lead the big play and make the game exciting.

Likewise, at Quality Magazine, we take a conservative approach when it comes to predicting future spending on quality. It's important to have the numbers correct, because we know you depend on them. The past few years the annual Quality Spending Survey has shown conservative increases from pre-2001 numbers. It's been run, run, run. Consistently, the ball has been advanced. For 2006, McMahon has come in and has just tossed a pass downfield for a $1.5 billion completion!

The 2006 Quality Spending Survey is in and Senior Editor Mark Robins gives a full account of the results beginning on p. 52. Quality Magazine is projecting a 2006 spending level of $4.4 billion, up $1.5 billion from 2005. That's a huge increase, when compared to increases during the past two years. This "team" which has just "run, run, run," has just completed a long downfield pass. However, unlike the Bears or any other team, Quality Magazine has not been calling the plays. You, our readers, have been running the team.

The analysis in Mark's article spells out the details, but one of the important aspects to note here is that 17% of you went over in your actual planned 2004 spending then. Your 2005 spending was 18% above what you had planned to spend when we asked in late 2004. This is a continuing trend from 2002 and 2003, with the over budget spending percentage increasing each year.

This confirms what we at Quality Magazine have been hearing from suppliers and manufacturers during the past few years. Business is getting better and spending is occurring on projects that had been on hold.

This good news is not as big a surprise as one might think. More than two years ago in this column, there were mentions of increased optimism at trade shows, conferences and in discussions with suppliers. It also became evident, through other research, that important sectors like machine tool consumption, which was increasing, would have a positive affect on quality spending. It's like football announcer John Madden, who gathers background information on the teams, seeing the plays he expects come to life on the field. Madden is happier for the team than he is for his own prognostication. It's satisfying to see the indicators pointing to a quality rebound become reality.

And, the 2006 numbers also tell the story of an economic rebound from a terrible "tackle" sustained on 9/11. At that time, the spending on all manufacturing-related equipment and services was stopped, with "players" stunned on the field. It has taken five years to recover from that hit, but progress has resumed on sure foot.

Forward down the field!