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    Credit: Photo by Nick Orabovic

Construction industry leaders are preparing for increased business and a stronger economy, according to recent research.

The survey of nearly 3,000 members of the construction industry was commissioned by Hanley Wood, a business-to-business media firm and publisher of Pool & Spa News. When asked how they would rate the strength of the U.S. economy, 12 percent of respondents characterized the current economy as strong, while 29 percent said they anticipate a strong economy by the end of 2013. More than half, 55 percent, expect a strong U.S. economy by 2015.

Respondents perceived a polarized political landscape and the federal debt as having the biggest negative impact on business.

Members of the pool and spa industry are optimistic as well, but their response is more tempered.

“It’s only been a year or so since the recession,” said Bill Drakeley, owner of Drakeley Swimming Pool Co. in Bethlehem, Conn. “Give us a couple more years and we’ll see.”

A common theme of the pool builders was that the market is recovering, but it has a long way to go to reach its pre-recession heights.

“We’re getting more remodels and a few more pools than last year,” said Dan Braun, owner of Del Rancho Pool and Spa near San Diego. “But our business is still only 20 percent of what it was at the peak.

“In California, we really got killed by the real estate market, so it’ll be a slow recovery. But we’ll come back.”

In the Hanley Wood survey, builders of single-family homes were among the most optimistic respondents. Sixty-one percent said they thought 2013 revenue would be up from the 2012 numbers, with 41 percent believing revenue would climb more than 10 percent. They think that on average, they’ll build 21 percent more homes in 2013 than they did this year.

The latest government figures support this optimism. A U.S. Commerce Department report released Nov. 1 stated that residential construction spending in September increased by 2.8 percent over August’s figures. Construction spending overall in September was up 0.6 percent from August.

The sticking point in the pool and spa industry outlook is financing, as it has been for several years. There’s a strong demand for pools, but comparatively few prospective buyers qualify for loans.

“The percentages are low on people getting their loans approved — it’s a real tough little nut lately,” said Dave Allen, owner of Erickson Pools in Clermont, Fla. “But it’s better than it was three or four years ago, and definitely better than last year.”