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      Home is where the money is

      Residential construction is on the rise across the country in recent months. According to the Commerce Department, September saw a 15 percent increase from August. Some Michigan businesses have seen an even bigger increase.

      The Commerce Department reports that September saw builders break ground on single family homes and apartments at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 872,000 nationwide, a four year high and proof of a recovering housing market. The Commerce Department credits much of the growth to record low mortgage rates. The residential construction market in Michigan is working to recover from dismal numbers in 2009. From 2005 to 2009, the number of new homes built fell by more than 85 percent. The Home Builders Association of Michigan claims it was directly related to the struggling auto industry.

      "When we used to build 35,000 to 53,000 homes in an average year, in a range between there, we dropped off to where we were building 5,000 homes in a year," said Lee Schwartz, Executive Vice President for Government Relations with the Home Builders Association of Michigan.

      Schwartz reports that 2011's numbers were up to over 8,000 new homes, and 2012 is looking even better. The upward trend is seen relatively uniformly across Michigan, but it is a little stronger than most in Marquette. A greater demand for new homes also encourages job growth.

      "Construction industry is one of the backbones of our local economy. It's a pretty well known federal statistic that for every home built in the United States, it creates and sustains three jobs, both directly and indirectly," said L.R. Swadley, President of the Upper Peninsula Builders Association, which represents about 140 different companies. A new home normally encourages job growth in demand for furniture and other services.

      Swadley is also president of Sunrise Builders, Inc. and is currently working on new condominiums and other homes at Harlow Farms Conservation Community in Marquette. He says that he has seen about a 40 percent increase in his sales from 2011 to 2012.

      "It's a pretty good feeling being a home builder in this area for over 35 years and seeing these housing cycles, ups and downs, and to be where we are right now with the upswing of housing and the excitement it creates in folks around here," said Swadley.

      "It's much less than it was from when we were building on average 35,000 a year, but it's a great sign that things are getting better for everybody in the State of Michigan," Schwartz said.

      Nationally, construction activity is now 82.5 percent higher than the recession low hit in April 2009, although activity is still below healthy levels according to the Commerce Department.