Last month we talked about stimulus plans that participants in the housing market were seeking, and what the government was planning to deliver.

My apologies to Vice President Joseph Biden, who I've since learned is a big fan of  Amtrak , for giving subsidized rail travel the short shrift.

 

Maybe additional stimulus won't be needed. That's good, because there may not be any money left after all the executives at the collapsed companies get their multimillion dollar bonuses.

Still, there's some good news out there. February housing starts unexpectedly jumped 22 percent during January, according to the  Commerce Department , breaking an eight-month streak of declines. Much of this gain was due to multifamily construction. Housing starts were still 47 percent lower than starts in February 2008, however.

 

Imports have plunged, and the Commerce Department reported that the trade deficit fell almost 10 percent in January, to its lowest level since 2002. Published reports have indicated hundreds of factories have closed in Asia due to decreased demand here.

To all of you who wished for imports to fall: Are you happy now?

New construction

There are other signs of life. BJS North America will manufacture bedroom furniture at its new Dandridge, Tenn., factory for  Ikea  and other companies, according to a report in  Knoxville News Sentinel .

Work began in December on a 95,000-square-foot plant and warehouse that will be the U.S. factory for  Broderna Johanssons Sangfabrik , a Swedish manufacturer of bedroom accessories. The new BJS operation will be next to  Klote International , a maker of upholstered furniture. We will try to get more details as this project moves forward.

 

In Virginia, UK West has installed a new Weinig cabinet door production line that employs lean techniques in its plant.

This company used to make furniture, but changed to cabinet door production after seeing market demand for that product. The manufacturing cell is reportedly capable of producing 1,200 to 1,500 cabinet doors per shift with three employees.

 

Also,  Preferred Seating Designs  has entered into an agreement with Ohio Seating Corp. and  Windsor Manufacturing Corp.  to create new types of theater and stadium seats that will be made in the U.S. The first two designs will be for theater venues and mega churches, a category that is seen as a growth area.

 

Companies we've spoken to recently are emphasizing their core strengths in this difficult year, but they haven't stopped thinking about new ideas for 2010 and beyond.

One recent economic program asked, "Is this the bottom?"

If it is, that means there's only one direction to go.

Have something to say? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.