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Business Observer Wednesday, May 6, 2009 13 years ago

Good times around the corner?

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Two prominent chief executives in the Sarasota-Manatee area are leading the recession-could-be-hitting bottom brigade.

Two prominent chief executives in the Sarasota-Manatee area are leading the recession-could-be-hitting bottom brigade.

In separate statements, Pat Neal, head of Lakewood Ranch-based homebuilder Neal Communities and Al Carlson, chief executive of Sarasota-based valve manufacturer Sun Hydraulics, say they are optimistic the economy will be in rebound mode before 2010.

Sun reported a profit for the first quarter of 2009, albeit a tiny one of $600,000 or 3 cents per share. It was a big drop from the $7.7 million profit or 46 cents per share it reported in the 2008 first quarter. Carlson, in the company's first quarter earning statement released May 5, indicated that the company could be doing much better if and when the economy turns around.

“It is my sense that we are getting close to, and may have, reached the bottom of this difficult economic cycle,” Carlson says. “There are some positive signals out there, most notably the Purchasing Manager's Index, which has now reported four consecutive months of upward movement.”

Neal echoed Carlson's recession-ending sentiments. The company posted its best first quarter sales report since the first quarter of 2005 for example, with 109 homes sold in the first three months. It then sold 24 homes in the first 24 days of April.

Like Sun, the Neal results come with a caveat: Prices for the homes are significantly lower than the average prices during the boom. Sizes of the homes are smaller, too.

Still, Neal says the increased sales volume is encouraging. “We now see enthusiasm replace fear,” says Neal. “People are able to make decisions confidently.”

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