Welcome to the Pool & Spa News annual Top 50 Builders issue.

Usually this edition of the magazine has a celebratory tone, but 2008 didn’t offer much in the way of a party. Still, rather than focus on how terrible everything is — we figured you already know that — the editorial staff decided to take a look at which companies are faring better in this economy, and why.

With that in mind, we created a number of lists drawn from the Top 50 and wrote short articles discussing each one.

Who are the top commercial builders? How about etailing? Some firms have seen their retail businesses remain steady or even grow — no easy feat in this market.

We took note of pool firms that stand out in other ways as well. With the Web playing an increasingly vital role in generating consumer interest, we devoted a section to the best Websites among the Top 50, and what makes them stand above the rest.

Another piece that I particularly like is called “Risk-Takers.” While many business owners are hunkering down and waiting for better times, these brave souls are going out on a limb, knowing their gamble could mean either big losses or big dividends.