PLATTSBURGH — North Country business owners continue to show trust in the region’s economic outlook, a recent survey shows.
The Business Confidence Index, unveiled by the North Country Chamber of Commerce as part of its Annual Issue Survey, stood at 90 percent, compared to 91 percent last year.
North Country Chamber of Commerce President Garry Douglas said the new number was gratifying.
“It has remained remarkably optimistic and virtually unchanged from last year,” he said.
The results showed 65 percent of respondents believe business will increase, and 25 expect it to remain steady. Those figures were 69 percent and 22 percent, respectively, last year.
The optimism in the local economy contrasts sharply with the national outlook. Only 24 percent responding to the survey said they believe the national economy will improve, 37 percent think it will stay steady, and 39 expect it will worsen.
Douglas said those beliefs were usually the opposite 10 to 12 years ago.
The chamber credits a resurgence in Canadian tourism; shopping and investment; the growth of Plattsburgh International Airport; major contracts at Bombardier and Nova Bus; the success of the North Country Regional Economic Development Council; and higher-than-expected sales- and occupancy-tax revenues as the main reasons for the local outlook.
WANT JOB CREATION
Regarding the federal level, the survey revealed 91 percent of business owners believe spending and debt must be decreased.
Asked what the government should do to support job creation and growth, 88 percent called for mandate and regulation reduction, 86 percent want less government spending, and 81 percent want to see tax relief for business and also job creation.
In addition, 78 percent believe the Affordable Health Care Act will increase costs for businesses, and 70 percent said it will eliminate jobs and discourage job creation.
Douglas said the chamber plans a major outreach campaign later this year to provide information to help businesses respond to the upcoming changes.
At the state level, respondents expressed strong support to continue building on the reform efforts of the last two years. That includes 95 percent who want to see significant mandate relief.
“The business community understands the relationship between that and property-tax relief,” Douglas said.
In addition, 95 percent support proposed changes to the Workers Compensation system, 93 percent are in favor of the changes to the Unemployment Insurance system, and 94 percent want more public/private partnerships in infrastructure projects.
An example of the latter exists just across the border: the extension of Route 30. The new highway, supported by tolls at a new bridge, allows traffic to bypass the island of Montreal as it heads east or west.
“New York is behind the curve on that,” Douglas said.
Chamber Board member Greg MacConnell, president of PrimeLink, said the company is optimistic about its future, based on many of the reasons outlined by Douglas.
“These statistics represent our feelings at our company,” he said. “Mandate relief is a big concern of our business and our industry.”
Board member Ron Graham, manager of Monaghan Medical Corp., said he was not surprised by the survey results, particularly concerning the state.
“The state has made some big improvements on an economic level,” he said.
The survey was sent electronically to the chambers 4,200 members and resulted in a 10-percent response rate. Although that number might seem small, Douglas said it is a strong figure for this type of survey.
Email Dan Heath: email@example.com