3/7/2014 - Business Confidence Survey
BUSINESS COMMUNITY EXPRESSES OPTIMISM ABOUT AREA ECONOMY, SUPPORT FOR STATE TAX RELIEF AND REFORMS, BUT CONCERNS ABOUT HEALTH CARE AND THE NATIONAL ECONOMY
The North Country Chamber of Commerce has released the results of its Annual Issue Survey, conducted in early February and drawing a response rate of 10% from the 4,200 businesses surveyed in Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Hamilton and northern Warren Counties.
In one annual feature of the survey, the Chamber establishes the "Business Confidence Index", which is a combination of those who expect their business activity to be up this year compared with last and those who expect their business to remain steady.
"It is very encouraging to see a strong Business Confidence Index of 92% this year," states Kim Murray, Chamber Chair. "58%, a strong majority, expect their business to increase and another 34% expect their business to be steady, reflecting some encouraging trends in the region along with a degree of optimism about the North Country which can continue to serve us well."
The perception of business in the North Country is, however, very different from the perception of the nation at large, with only 25% expecting the national economy to move upward this year and with 33% believing it will move downward.
The Chamber attributes area optimism to a number of factors, including:
· A strong upswing in Canadian tourism, shopping and investment.
· A significant drop in area unemployment over the last twelve months, with real growth in local manufacturing employment. The North Country is the only region in New York to grow manufacturing jobs last year while statewide, manufacturing employment again declined.
· Major contract wins for Bombardier and Nova Bus, and the commitment of Prevost to establish its U.S. operation in Plattsburgh.
· The strong performance of the North Country Regional Economic Development Council, securing "Top Performer" status in December for the third year in a row.
· Sales tax and occupancy tax receipts exceeding projections in Clinton County
"These and other recent trends and developments provide legitimate fuel for local optimism," states Garry Douglas, Chamber President. "We are continuing to position the North Country strategically for the future, and these survey results indicate general business confidence in the strategies underway and in the work of our regional economic development team."
On the federal level, when asked to characterize their position on the current levels of federal spending and debt, 87% indicate they are "very concerned", believing that federal spending and debt must be decreased. Asked what the President and Congress should do to support stronger national growth and job creation, the regional business community provided the following answers:
· Reduce mandates and regulations on employers: 88%
· Tax relief for businesses and job creation: 86%
· Reduce federal spending: 80%
· Increase domestic energy production, including gas and oil: 75%
Area employers also expressed serious concerns about the current and continuing implementation of the Affordable Health Care Act, with 75% believing it will increase costs for their business and most employers and 67% believing it will eliminate jobs and discourage new job creation. 43% do not believe it will actually result in most of the uninsured having coverage while only 12% believe it will.
In terms of implementation, 59% support repeal of the individual coverage mandate now due to take effect on March 31, 2014, with another 24% supporting delay. With regard to the already delayed mandate on employers with more than 25 employees to provide health insurance, 64% support repeal.
On other issues, 87% oppose proposals at the federal and state levels to mandate that private employers provide paid family leave to employees, and 76% question further extensions of unemployment benefits.
On the state level, the regional business community strongly supports Governor Cuomo's proposed tax relief measures for business and upstate manufacturers with 93% in favor. Other findings on state issues include the following
· 92% oppose the use of taxpayer funds for political campaigns.
· 92% support significant state mandate relief for local governments and schools to help reduce property taxes.
· 95% support reform of the state's "scaffold law" to apply a comparative negligence standard, thereby reducing insurance and construction costs and boosting construction jobs in New York.
· 83% support the well regulated extraction of the state's natural gas resources in the southern tier.
Overall, the top three priorities of the North Country business community in Albany this year are: Support for Upstate Economic Development, Tax Relief for Business and Manufacturers, and Mandate Relief.
On regional matters, 88% support approval of the proposed occupancy tax in Franklin County, dedicated to tourism marketing and development, along with enhancement of the Clinton County occupancy tax. An overwhelming 97% support the planned expansion of the terminal at Plattsburgh International Airport, including U.S. Customs operations for international flights and other air activities.
The North Country Chamber of Commerce is the largest business and economic development organization in northern New York, linking more than 4,200 members across Clinton, Franklin, Essex, Hamilton and northern Warren Counties. It works actively in Albany and Washington on behalf of the North Country economy. For more information visit www.northcountrychamber.com.
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