March 02, 2012

Area Firms Expect Growth

By: Larry Rulison, Business Writer

Source: Times Union

ALBANY — Even though the struggling economy still doesn't appear to have turned around, Capital Region businesses remain optimistic about the future.

That's according to the 26th annual Business Climate Survey by Marvin and Co. and the University at Albany School of Business.

Last year, 49 percent of the companies surveyed said they expected their businesses to grow; that came true for only 43 percent of them. However, despite their disappointment, once again, 49 percent of the companies surveyed believe business will increase this year.

"We see some very positive signs in that," said Kevin McCoy, a director with Marvin & Co., a Latham-based accounting firm.

The survey gathers data mostly from members of local chambers of commerce and covers businesses that employ 40,000 people locally. Most of the companies surveyed have under $3 million in sales.

McCoy said there are many signs in the survey that the state's spending on UAlbany's College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering and on incentives for the GlobalFoundries computer chip factory in Saratoga County are paying off.

In fact, 29 percent of companies surveyed believe that the increase in technology companies in the region has had an impact on their own business — up from 24 percent last year.

"Those projects are very important to keeping the economy the way it is," McCoy said.

One major change in the responses this year is that the No. 1 concern of local businesses is the national economy. But in years past — going back 15 years, in fact — health care costs were the biggest concern of business owners.

McCoy says that shift is likely due to two factors, including health care costs that have been stabilized by a variety of new plans with differing co-pay options for employees. The other reason is that much of the debate during the Republican presidential primary season has been over how to fix the national economy.

"There is a lot of focus on the national economy right now, particularly in an election year," McCoy said.

Todd Shimkus, president of the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce, says there is a lot of optimism in Saratoga County, and the job and wage data are promising as GlobalFoundries and its suppliers gear up for full production at the $4.6 billion factory.

But economic development officials like himself and others have to still work very hard to attract new jobs here.

"It's sustained growth that we want to have," Shimkus said. "It doesn't just happen because we're in the right place at the right time."

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