Five Signs the Economy Is Improving

I'm not suggesting the recession is over. I realize Detroit and the auto industry are just getting started with thousands of layoffs. But I see at least five signs that the economy is improving.

The signs are For Sale signs on five homes in my neighborhood. The five homes have been for sale for more than a year. And suddenly -- in the past two weeks -- the For Sale Signs include updated messaging: Either "Sold" or "Under Contract."

Neighborhood buzz says the homes sold for 5 to 10 percent under list price. Not great. And the sale prices are likely 10 to 12 percent below the market highs of around 2006 (though the dips are steeper in the higher-end market). Not horrific. Either way, I sense the real estate market is moving again (ever so slowly) here on Long Island -- and spirits are improving.

What does this have to do with Managed Services? Plenty. One of my neighbors is CEO of a business that ranks among Cisco's to North American partners. He sounded upbeat when I saw him at the Cisco Partner Summit last week. Customers are paying their bills, and long-delayed IT projects are starting to move forward.

Business confidence starts at home. In your own house. In your own neighborhood. As neighbors gradually open their wallets again, the economy will gradually recover. Fingers crossed, I think it's starting to happen.

Hopefully, we're all a little wiser this time around: Investing in ourselves, our families and our businesses -- rather than consumer debt we really don't need.

Last week, Cisco CEO John Chambers said he's hopeful an economic recovery will start in Q4 2009. And a Cisco PR person mentioned to me that Cisco's best-performing partners all have one thing in common: A focus on managed services.

There's still some pain ahead. CNNMoney is quick to note that Detroit layoffs threaten the housing-market recovery.

Still, I sense many in the tech industry are feeling better about their business prospects -- especially compared to January and February of this year. It was a brutal winter. But hopefully, the deep chill is ending.

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