RALEIGH — We are on the verge of a big rebound in the economy, especially on the tech side.

What’s that? How dare I be optimistic?

For one, the sun is finally shining again. For another, the temperature actually is staying above freezing most days. Come on, Spring.

Outside of the weather, I just keep hearing about too many positive actions taking place across a wide variety of markets and industries — from software to networking to hardware – to convince myself that all these are just wishful thinking. Yes, the evidence is anecdotal. But there’s a lot of it.

The opinion is not based on stock market trends or economic forecasts. It’s based on talking to scores on entrepreneurs and other folks in recent weeks who say business is starting to turn — or will turn upward as soon as the Iraq situation is resolved.

The economic data is all over the place. And a mixed bag of news this morning — from a bit slower than expected increase in consumer spending countered by a spike in building — doesn’t seem to provide much of a barometer. The markets, obviously, are still in the tank.

And the Iraq war continues to be a big overhang. Michael Murphy, head trader at Wachovia Securities in Baltimore, told The Associated Press: “Until we get this (war) under way, people are going to be sitting on their hands. I don’t see any real reason for the market to rally.”

However, there is excitement as a war or settlement draws closer. Helping matters as well has to be the most recent arrests made in the war on terror.

If Osama bin Laden is captured, what kind of a patriotic bounce can we expect from that? Big, big, big.

No glitz; what does tech deliver?

The latest wave of enthusiasm I encountered took place Monday morning at the BellSouth and Cisco business seminar at the Crabtree Marriott Inn. Some 60 or so business people representing small businesses to large enterprises to hear a variety of speakers talk about new products and trends.

In one-on-one conversations, several Cisco reps talked about the new wave of business they see emerging. There is an increasing level of excitement among executives who are getting closer to making buying decisions. They know they must invest in upgrading or replacing infrastructure after sitting on the sidelines for two years since the “dot com” balloon burst and the economy tanked. As soon as Iraq is out of the way, they may start signing contracts, according to the Cisco crew.

An engineer talked at length about how executives still aren’t buying on hype. “Glitz and gee whiz only go so far,” he said. “It has to be ‘How can this make me money, save me money or help me do something I’m not doing now.'”

At least they are talking, not just saying no.

If the logjam of pent-up capital expenditure spending breaks, watch out.

A couple of “head hunters” also have said that while firms aren’t necessarily hiring new executives are starting to show interest and “nibbling” at resumes.

And some media/public relations firms are reporting a surge in inquiries about their services.

No ‘whine and dine’

I ran into another positive wave at last week’s Metrolina Entrepreneurial Council’s “Trailblazer” awards dinner. Some 150 people from the Charlotte area showed up not to “whine and dine” but to talk real business.

And two weeks ago, the NCINVEST 2003 event trotted out some of North Carolina’s leading public companies, which touted their potential to institutional investors.

Another indicator is the number of custom software engineers I have talked with since the first of the year. “It’s like someone turned on a light,” one company executive said. Custom “apps” fell way down the “must buy” list when companies put the squeeze on IT spending.

Of course, venture capital remains a dead zone. But a lot of entrepreneurs have learned in a series of costly, failed deals where they lost their shirts, ties, sandals, and intellectual property that if there is any way in the future to avoid taking VC money in the future they will do it. They won’t give up.

Those who don’t quit will see a payoff. The sun finally seems to be rising.

Rick Smith is managing editor of Local Tech Wire.