2/27/2013 - Small Business Survey Results
BUSINESS COMMUNITY EXPRESSES OPTIMISM ABOUT AREA ECONOMY,
BUT CONCERNS ABOUT NATIONAL ECONOMY AND A NEED FOR FURTHER STATE REFORMS
The North Country Chamber of Commerce has released the results of its Annual Issue Survey, conducted in early February and drawing a strong 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 90% this year," states Vicki Demarse Giroux, Chamber Chair. "65% expect their business to be up and another 25% expect their business to be steady, showing some positive trends and a degree of optimism here in our area which can serve us well going forward."
The perception of business in the North Country is, however, very different from the perception of the nation at large, with only 24% expecting the national economy to move upward this year and with 39% believing it will move downward.
"This once again confirms the shift from years past when we would have expected to hear that things are tough here but somehow better everywhere else," states Garry Douglas, Chamber President. "Now the regional business community continues to feel more optimistic about the North Country than about the state or nation generally."
The Chamber attributes the area optimism to a number of factors, including:
A strong resurgence in Canadian tourism, shopping and investment.
- The strong performance of Plattsburgh International Airport, including recent announcements of new services.
- Major contract wins for Bombardier and Nova Bus, and Bombardier's current expansion.
- The strong performance of the North Country Regional Economic Development Council, securing "Top Performer" status in December for the second year in a row.
- Sales tax and occupancy tax receipts exceeding projections in Clinton County.
"These and other recent trends and developments provide fuel for optimism, as does our area's proven capacity to understand that not all things will go well and that, like every region, we too will take our periodic hits," states Douglas. "But we have become better than most at dealing with various hits in a determined way, while continuing to position ourselves strategically for the future, as with our growing economic connectivity with Montreal and the exploitation of the power of infrastructure."
On the federal level, when asked to characterize their position on the current levels of federal spending and debt, 91% 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%
- Reduce federal spending: 86%
- Tax relief for businesses and job creation: 81%
Area employers also expressed serious concerns about the upcoming implementation of major provisions of the Affordable Health Care Act, with 78% believing it will increase costs for their business and most employers, and 70% believing it will eliminate jobs and discourage new job creation. The Chamber indicates plans for major informational programs and outreach before summer as the new Health Insurance Exchanges are finalized and other provisions become clearer.
A full 95% support increased access to Canadian energy (oil, natural gas and hydropower) as a part of meeting our future energy needs, creating more supply and competition, and achieving North American energy independence.
On the state level, the regional business community demonstrated strong support for a number of further reforms aimed at reducing the cost of doing business in New York, including the following:
- 95% support for significant state mandate relief for local governments and schools.
- 95% support for proposed cost saving changes in the Workers Comp program.
- 93% support for proposed changes in the Unemployment Insurance program.
- 94% support for more use of Public-Private Partnerships in infrastructure projects.
- 94% support for reform of the "Scaffold Law" to add a "comparative negligence" standard.
- 87% support for allowing the 18a assessment on all electricity and natural gas bills to expire this year.
There is 75% support for sending a constitutional amendment to state voters regarding casinos. However, 84% oppose campaign finance reform if it includes taxpayer funding of campaigns. On a proposed state minimum wage increase, 57% believe any increase should be phased-in over more than one year, and a large majority of 71% believe that any increase must be balanced with other cost savings for small business.
Overall, the Top Three Priorities for the regional business community in Albany this year are: Mandate Relief, Workers Comp Reforms, and Energy Cost Relief.
On regional matters, 92% support the new North Country Regional Economic Development Council process and its success in securing state support for North Country projects and strategies, and 98% support the planned expansion of the terminal at Plattsburgh International Airport.