Every April, our editorial staff starts planning the Pool & Spa News annual Top 50 Builders issue. In previous years we brainstormed ideas for articles focusing on how the nation’s top builders are continuing to grow.

But 2009 is a bit different.

I remember the cover of last year’s issue, which showed a slightly battered-looking pool builder standing in a rubber lifeboat. His fist was in the air, and he had a brave, determined expression on his unshaven face. The unnamed contractor was surrounded by shark fins labeled with the words, “Credit Crunch,” “Housing Market” and “Fuel Costs.”

Recently, I got an e-mail from one of our top builders who said, “If last year’s cover was a boat, this one has got to be a submarine.”

He’s right. And even though this year’s Top 50 issue certainly will be interesting to read, it probably won’t be cheerful.

This may be the most challenging time for the pool and spa market since its inception as an industry some six decades ago. And the larger, more production-based builders have taken the brunt of it. 

But why focus exclusively on the doom and gloom? (We get enough of that in the mainstream news.)

To that end, another Hanley Wood magazine, Remodeling, plans to launch a feature on its Website called “Bright Spots.” The piece is centered around a large map of the U.S., and when users click on a location, up pops the name of a remodeling firm in that area, along with a constructive step it is taking, or perhaps a positive trend seen in the region.

Recently, I saw a rough version of the concept, and right away I knew I wanted to adopt it for Pool & Spa News, maybe even incorporating it into the Top 50 in some fashion. Not only were the anecdotes from the remodeling firms inspiring, but the technology that houses the map is incredibly cool.

So, if you have anything positive to report, whether it’s a great project you just completed, an optimistic indicator in your area, or even a money-saving initiative you instituted in-house, we want to hear about it. Call, or drop me a note.