Al’s column

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by FCNews Staff

GOOD NEWS: Each day there seems to more good news the economic recovery is taking root. A recent survey by Prudential Real Estate found a growing number of people gaining confidence the housing market will recover as soon as next year. The survey of more than 1,200 people showed 60% had positive views about the housing market and 70% expected property values to improve over the next two years. Additionally, 63% consider real estate a good investment, up 11% from a similar survey Prudential conducted last year. The rise reinforces recent stories in The Wall Street Journal and other national media that some of the nation’s hardest hit markets, Phoenix, for example, are seeing their first improvements in years. As Stephen Van Anden, CMO for Prudential told Bloomberg News, housing may “finally be climbing out of its deep hole.”

MORE GOOD: The mild winter across most of the country seems to be helping with the recovery as the U.S. Census Bureau reported retail sales last month were up over both January and the previous February. Sales at furniture and home furnishings stores rose 8.3% above February of last year, faring much better than general merchandise stores, which saw a 2.9% increase year-over-year, and department stores, up .2% during the same period. The one caveat that may stall growth, according to Matthew Shay of the National Retail Federation, is rising gas prices.

GOODWILL: When it comes to doing good, there is certainly no shortage of positive deeds being done by the industry. As an example, a dozen flooring installers from three states recently traveled to earthquake-ravaged Haiti to donate their time and talents to lay nearly 6,000 square feet of flooring in the new National Teaching Hospital of Mirebalais, 30 miles north of Port-au-Prince. Known as the “Floorers Without Borders” or “the seamless flooring guys” by other tradesmen on the project, the team consisted of 11 union members—four from Michigan and seven from Massachusetts—and one non-union installer from Connecticut. To say the project called for all their skills and then some would be an understatement when you throw in the communication barriers. But prevail they did, completing the job in five days.

POLICE BLOTTER: On the opposite side of the good deed spectrum is the following. Earlier this month, Crystal Fallon, an accountant for Mansueto Flooring in West Goshen, Pa., was jailed after stealing at least $20,000 from her employer. Accord-ing to her old boss, owner Peter Mansueto, she forged his signature on a check made out to herself within 10 days of joining the firm last March. Mansueto told the court the company was already suffering due to the economy and the theft forced him to shut down until the full amount stolen was figured out. “You can’t put a price on the business I lost,” he told the judge. “It was a nightmare.” Fallon was sentenced to seven to 23 months and two years probation.

ONE MORE: In upstate New York, an installer was charged with ripping off employees and consumers of more than $300,000 between 2008 and 2010. Jason Rich was charged with 350 counts of offering a false instrument for filing, 14 counts of both grand larceny and failure to pay wages in accordance with labor laws, and two counts of failure to pay prevailing wage. The district attorney’s office said Rich paid his crews less than the required wage for 30 public jobs, then pocketed the difference—on some jobs collecting more than $25,000. He was released on $50,000 bail and was next schedule to appear in court as FCNews went to press. Stay tuned.

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