Relationships - whether among family members, friends, colleagues, or business associates - enrich our life experiences. And they are never more needed, more appreciated, or more important than during challenging times.

To members of the dynamic commercial vehicle industry, economic and business cycles are almost second nature. We've managed through them before, and it's up to us to determine how to adapt and to flourish through these periods today and in the future. Today, our economic challenges are formidable. Whether at the gas pump or on the pages of the latest financial reports, the ripple effect from spiraling commodity, energy, and transportation expenses is obvious.

Despite this, there are opportunities everywhere.

Through Heavy Duty Aftermarket Week, we have the opportunity to hear from great speakers; participate in relevant educational workshops; further develop and strengthen partnerships between distributors and suppliers; and to network with, and learn from, the key leaders in the North American commercial vehicle aftermarket. The meetings, trade show, networking and other aspects of this outstanding event have, I believe, become more relevant to our industry than ever before.

HDAW was created to grow and to cultivate strong partnerships between the supplier community and the independent distribution channel. The event brings together a rich and diverse group of our industry participants - from small independents to large distributors, from suppliers to marketers to association representatives and more - to examine and understand our industry's challenges and opportunities; and to work collaboratively to find solutions that will make a difference. HDAW provides us with a single, powerful forum to develop the knowledge and build the relationships that will enable each of us to better satisfy our end customers, and - at the same time - to profitably grow our business.

If we are to respond to our current challenges and drive our continued success, we must be willing to invest in opportunities to learn, share, and network with our industry partners. Through valuable collaboration we can, and we will, expand our knowledge, our understanding, and our ongoing approach to the issues that we must tackle.

Like our industry and our businesses, HDAW '09 will be about partnership - working together to maximize opportunities, and to overcome the challenges. As I look to the next 12 months and beyond, I see many opportunities for growth. To take advantage of what lies ahead, however, we must call upon those partnerships and share a common commitment to helping our customers succeed. HDAW '09 will be a key enabler to help us get there. I hope you will join me in Orlando in February. I look forward to seeing you at this vital industry event.

Joe McAleese is president and CEO of Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems and co-chair of HDAW '09.