Florida Chamber’s Small Business Index highlights economic optimism

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Florida small businesses have become slightly more cautious about the economy compared to just a few months ago, according to a new Florida Chamber of Commerce survey released today. A few more companies also say they are planning to hire employees in the next few months.

Access to money is the main hurdle for business, says the Chamber in its Quarterly Small Business Index Survey. The state’s economy might be outpacing the nation, but sluggish credit markets are preventing businesses from taking full advantage of the improving economic conditions.

In the study conducted September 9-27, nearly a third of the 594 individual responses — 31 percent — named limited access to capital as the single most pressing issue for fiscal health. Economic uncertainty came in second, with 28 percent.

In addition, the hiring outlook is showing an upward trend, with 29 percent of employers plan to hire employees during the next six months – up from 28 percent in July.

“While Florida’s economy is moving in the right direction, small businesses continue to feel pressure from tight credit markets,” Todd Kocourek, Small Business Council member of the Florida Chamber  said in a statement. “For the second consecutive quarter, nearly half of small businesses tell us that they are not able to obtain financing and that they expect this pattern to hold in the near future.”

Forty-one percent of respondents told the Chamber they could not obtain financing in the last six months while 46 percent expect access to capital to be more difficult to get in the near future.   

Business confidence is holding steady; 37 percent of small businesses say they are better off now than six months ago, down from 42 percent in July. Twenty-nine percent of companies want to hire in the next six months, up a single point since July.

Half of businesses (50 percent) say they expect sales to increase over the next three months, and 68 percent expect sales to increase over the next year – compared to only 12 percent and 10 percent expecting sales to decrease over each period respectively.

A few of the highlights of the Small Business Index Survey:

  • 37 percent  believe their business is better off than six months ago – down five points from last quarter
  • 20 percent believe their business is worse off today than six months ago – up two percentage points from July
  • 56 percent of small business owners believe the economy will improve during the next year, down from 61 percent in July
  • 65 percent expect the economy to improve during the next three years, down from 72 percent last quarter
  • 22 percent believe the economy will weaken over the next year, and 20 percent say the economy will weaken over the next three years, both up from 18 percent July
  • 39 percent identified lack of sales as the main obstacle preventing them from hiring, while 23 percent say economic uncertainty keeps them from hiring new employees

Government regulation is also taking its toll on business confidence, with 57 percent of respondents worried or very worried that regulations, restrictions and taxes will hurt their ability to do business. Only 40 percent say they are not very worried or not worried at all.

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.