Borrowing for housing work was trimmed by a quarter thanks to downsizing, but the real driver was the group's contracting companies, which bumped up profits 15% to £5.7m.
These groups include Sones Landscaping grounds-upkeep business, Deerness Fencing and Esh Developments land and property developer.
Brian Manning, chief executive of the north-east group, said: "After another challenging year we are pleased to be reporting a profit, albeit relatively small.
"Early indications for 2010 suggest we will continue to show improvements. We agree with the pundits, recovery is fragile and forecasting into the future is very difficult."
Austin Donohoe, Esh Group chairman, said: "Our commitment to developing an effective workforce for the future is ongoing and we continue to create training schemes."
His firm recently set up in its new Northumberland headquarters, a £1.5m site covering 6,000 sq m in Cramlington to serve client needs north of the Tyne.
The consolidated results did not give breakdowns on the financial performance of individual companies, said a representative.