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    What valuable lessons have you learned since the economic downturn began?Characterize this year in terms of how it's affecting the pool and spa industry.What kind of recession will this prove to be?

Since the Top 50 Builders list debuted nearly a decade ago, the industry has seen historic highs and lows.

A dearth of available financing and  uncooperative weather made for a tough 2009 … especially after a gangbusters stretch just a few years prior.

For instance, total revenue generated by Pool & Spa News’ Top 50 Builders peaked at $2.2 billion in 2006, while last year’s $882.6 million — a 60 percent drop — marked the group’s lowest output since the list was started.

Similarly, the Top 50 accounted for an all-time high of 46,513 pools built in 2005, but dipped nearly 75 percent to 12,467 in 2009.

As a result, many pool professionals poured greater resources and found additional income in previously supplementary businesses like service, maintenance and repairs.  

Renovation and remodeling activity among the Top 50, for example, tripled in significance over the past five years: In 2004, such work accounted for just 3.4 percent of the Top 50’s combined revenue; last year, however, renovations were responsible for an impressive 10.3 percent of total revenue.

Continuing another trend from the previous year, commercial work also cast a larger shadow in 2009, when it accounted for 10.4 percent of the Top 50’s combined revenue compared with 4.5 percent in 2004.

Through it all, the industry perseveres, with a number of builders across the country reporting modest growth in 2010. Could it be the start of a sustained turnaround?

Only time will tell.