Fresno small businesses more optimistic that others in West

February 15, 2017 8:30am
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•  Small business sentiment positive about the business climate in the next two years

•  “This confidence is essential if further job growth and expansion is to occur”

Fresno small business owners are more confident than most about the direction of the national economy, according to results released Wednesday from the Union Bank 18th annual Small Business Economic Survey.

More than half (56 percent) of Fresno small business owners say the national economy is headed in the right direction versus 53 percent of all West Coast small business owners surveyed.

Small business owners in the Fresno region are significantly more optimistic about the direction of the U.S. than their West Coast peers. Fifty percent of small business owners in Fresno believe the U.S., as an entity, is headed in the right direction compared to 38 percent of West Coast businesses.

Small business owners also show increased confidence in the local economy (56 percent) and their own businesses (90 percent).

“It is very encouraging to see that business owners in Fresno hold a positive view of the national economy, as well as the local economy and their own businesses,” says Union Bank Managing Director Todd Hollander, who is head of business banking for the firm. “This confidence is essential if further job growth and expansion is to occur.”

(Todd Hollander expands on the survey’s findings and the trends it indicates in this exclusive CVBT Audio Interview. Please click on the link below to listen now or to download the audio file for later listening.)

Fresno’s small business owners are also more optimistic about the future business climate than owners across California, Oregon and Washington State.

Sixty percent of Fresno respondents believe the business climate will improve over the next two years. This compares to 41 percent of all West Coast survey participants.

However, 20 percent of individuals operating a small business in Fresno expect the business climate to worsen.

The survey found 60 percent of small business owners hired new employees in 2016, more than double the results across the West Coast (28 percent). Hiring may continue its upward trend as nearly one-third of Fresno small business owners indicate they plan to increase staffing in 2017. Half, however, said they will keep personnel levels in line with last year.

Fifty percent of small business owners in Fresno reported sales increases for 2016, much higher than the West Coast average of 32 percent.

Generally, small business owners plan to keep costs and prices stable this year, though one in three expect to increase costs (12 points higher versus the West Coast average of 18 percent).

Referrals from existing clients remain the most common -- though declining -- means of generating new business, according to the survey. Networking, new equipment and adding locations are also used.

Nearly one-third of Fresno’s small business owners said they will increase capital expenditures in 2017. However, half of small business owners are looking to keep them the same.

A vast majority (90 percent) of Fresno small business owners said the 2010 Small Business Jobs Act has had no impact on their company.

Six in 10 small business owners said their health care costs have “somewhat or greatly” risen as a result of the health care changes. However, they said the Affordable Care Act has not impacted employment.

Across the West Coast, 23 percent of respondents noted they were either “extremely concerned” or “very concerned” about proposed changes to the minimum wage versus 20 percent of Fresno’s small business owners.

Although small business owners in Fresno do not favorably rate the federal government’s efforts to stimulate small business growth, half of respondents believe more government programs are a top way to grow small business, followed by keeping jobs in the U.S. (30 percent) and greater access to capital and credit (30 percent).

In response to questions about equal pay, 80 percent of Fresno’s small business owners said these policies remain a low priority and they have not made any conscious efforts to address the issue.

Ninety percent of Fresno small business owners said that access to credit has remained stable over the past two years. One in five applied for and was approved for credit in 2016. Similarly, 20 percent plan to apply for credit in 2017.

Most small business owners in Fresno are not prepared for changing interest rates. Nearly three-quarters (70 percent) said they are either unsure or admit to being unprepared; 30 percent said they are prepared.

Half of small business owners said they are working more hours in early 2017 than they did during the same time last year; 30 percent said they are working the same; and 20 percent said they are working “somewhat or a lot less.”

The proportion of small business owners planning changes to ownership structure remains constant, with eight in ten reporting that their business will continue to operate in its current form. This is consistent with the West Coast and California averages.

About the survey

Union Bank, working with its survey partner, surveyed 693 respondents (591 in California and 102 in the Pacific Northwest) online from Dec. 12, 2016 to Jan. 3, 2017. The small business respondents were screened to ensure that they have been in operation for a minimum of two years with owners over the age of 25. The small businesses were defined for the survey as having $15 million or less in annual sales. The margin of error for the full sample is +/-4. For the various regions, the margins of error are as follows: Southern California +/-4%, Northern California +/-7%, Pacific Northwest +/-10%.

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