---- — It's been a long four-plus years since the financial markets crashed and sent the nation into economic tailspin.
Companies collapsed and showered debris upon millions of Americans, including plenty of northern Michigan residents whose jobs, homes and savings either were badly damaged or simply vanished.
Many area residents are only now digging out of the darkness and trying to ascertain if there indeed is light at the end of an extended, terrible tunnel.
It appears weary local residents have some reason to believe economic turnaround is at hand.
Tourism — buoyed by the region's stunning natural resources — carried the day here for years, and the second-home crowd helped shield the local housing market from complete collapse. But today it seems new home construction and existing home renovation are on the upswing, a nod to cautious, but evident consumer optimism.
Small businesses — truly the backbone of the local economy — offered at least anecdotal stories of hope during Tuesday's annual Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce Business Expo at the Grand Traverse Resort and Spa.
Rex Ambs, a co-owner of GeoFurnace Heating & Cooling, said new construction is on the rise, and so is repair and replacement work.
"In general for us, we've had a pretty good year," Ambs said.
Little by little, the region and nation are emerging from years of darkness. It seems better days may well be on the way.