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2/26/2016   - Economic Outlook

BUSINESS COMMUNITY EXPRESSES CONTINUED OPTIMISM ABOUT AREA ECONOMY AND IDENTIFIES LEGISLATIVE PRIORITIES 

     The North Country Chamber of Commerce has released the results of its Annual Issue Survey, conducted in mid-February and drawing a response rate of 15% from the 4,200 businesses surveyed in Clinton, Franklin, Essex, Hamilton and northern Warren Counties.

     In one feature of the survey, the Chamber establishes the annual "BUSINESS CONFIDENCE INDEX", which is a combination of those who expect their business activity to be up this year and those who expect their business to remain steady.

     "This year's Business Confidence Index of 92% once again shows continued optimism," states Greg MacConnell, Chairman of the North Country Chamber. "A full 60% expect their business to increase, while 32% expect it to remain steady and only 8% expect decline."

The Chamber attributes area optimism to a number of factors, including:

·         A continued drop in North Country unemployment, with real growth in manufacturing.

·         High levels of continued interest in foreign direct investment in the area, with fDi Magazine ranking Plattsburgh the #2 micropolitan "City of the Future".

·         Continued success in attracting historic levels of state economic development investment in the region.

·         Anticipation of several pending projects, including in the energy and advanced manufacturing sectors.

     In response to proposals to boost the State Minimum Wage for all employers in the state to $15 per hour, the North Country business community has responded as follows:

·         56% oppose any action to further increase the State Minimum Wage at this time.

·         40% indicate they are open to some increase but that $15 is too high.

·         4% support a $15 per hour statewide minimum wage.

     A very strong 93% believe that a $15 State Minimum Wage would eliminate jobs and harm the North Country economy, while 7% believe it would have no job impact.

     When asked if the State Minimum Wage should be at different levels in New York City and upstate, reflecting different costs of living and different economies, 86% believe the minimum wage levels should be different upstate.

     In a related response, a full 92% embrace more state and federal support for the development of needed skills in our workforce as an alternative approach to achieving higher wage job opportunities for North Country people.

     In response to the Governor's proposal for 12 weeks of mandatory paid family leave to be paid through a system of employee deductions similar to Disability, but with no differentiation for small employers and only four weeks of employment needed to qualify, 84% express opposition as proposed.

     Other findings are as follows:

·         93% support for greater and more flexible federal and state support for workforce development and training aimed at addressing skill gaps and meeting the current and future needs of employers.

·         97% support for cost reducing reforms to the State Workers' Comp system.

·         96% support for reform of the state's "Scaffold Law", applying a comparative     negligence factor to liability.

·         94% support for the Governor's proposed state tax relief for small business.

     In the first ever unanimous response to a question in the Chamber's annual Issue Survey, there is 100% support for major new state commitments to upstate infrastructure over the next several years, including roads, bridges, airports, rail, broadband, water and sewer.

     The top four priorities for North Country business in Albany this year are:

     #1 - OPPOSING A $15 STATEWIDE MINIMUM WAGE.

     #2 - WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT TO ADDRESS SKILLS NEEDS.

     #3 - MAJOR STATE INVESTMENT IN INFRASTRUCTURE.

     #4 - SMALL BUSINESS TAX REDUCTION.

     These findings were released at the North Country Chamber's Annual State Legislative Breakfast on February 26th. They will be widely shared with state and federal officials and will be actively used by the Chamber in its advocacy efforts in Albany and Washington on behalf of the North Country business community and economy

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