Survey: Sierra economic outlook is up 10 points
Tribune News Service
CARSON CITY – While more business leaders in the region are offering a sunnier outlook of the regional economy than they were just six months ago, most still say conditions are poor.
That’s according to the Sierra Region Economic Outlook Year-End Business Survey published Tuesday by the Center for Regional Studies at the University of Nevada, Reno. The survey has been conducted twice a year since 2004 and includes the responses of 525 business owners, presidents, CEOs and managers throughout the region with about 75 percent of the firms located in Washoe County and 10 percent in Carson City.
The survey’s economic outlook index improved to 71.5, an increase of nearly 10 points since last summer. That means businesses are more optimistic, but not as much as they were in 2004 when the index was 100. The lowest the index was 45.7 in 2008.
Meanwhile, firms describing economic conditions as poor or very poor made up 59 percent of the survey sample while firms describing the economy as good or very good made up just 4 percent. About a third said conditions were fair.
In 2004, 93 percent of businesses surveyed said overall economic conditions were either good or very good.
“The overall is we’re attempting to bounce off the bottom, it’s no longer the free fall,” said Brian Bonnenfant, the project manager for the CRS. “Just trying to crawl out of that swamp. We’re getting some legs underneath us, especially on the consumption side of things.”
Other findings from the survey included:
• 16 percent said overall economic conditions had improved, up from 9 percent in 2009.
• 33 percent said they expected the economy to improve in the next 12 months, up from 23 percent last summer. In 2009, 31 percent gave the same answer.
• 54 percent of companies said they expected to expand within the next 12 months while 27 percent said they were considering a reduction.
• 74 percent said their firm had taken steps to reposition, re-purpose or reinvent their business model.
• Of the 26 percent that said their firm needed capital to start or maintain a business, only half of them were able to secure a loan.
• 46 percent supported extending unemployment benefits while 43 percent were against.
• 47 percent said budget cuts at the state level would have a negative impact on their business, while 11 percent said the cuts would have a positive impact and 28 percent said no impact. The remaining 15 percent either did not know or did not provide a response.
“I was encouraged by the increasing index and troubled by individual points of pain that we need to work harder on,” said Rob Hooper, the executive director of the Northern Nevada Development Authority.
Nearly 43 percent used terms such as “alarming,” “dismal” and “gloomy” to describe the local economy while about 27 percent used phrases like “Hopeful but depressed,” “slowly getting better” and “cautious in my optimism.”
That last comment describes the outlook of Mike Jackson, the president of The Micromanipulator Co. in Carson City, who participated in the survey and said he’s noticed more activity in recent months.
“I think in general, within the manufacturing sector at least, there’s some optimism,” Jackson said. “It’s not going to set the barn on fire … but people are cautiously expanding.”
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