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BizFed survey finds optimism

Posted: May 4, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: May 4, 2012 1:55 a.m.

Los Angeles County business owners and executives report they are more optimistic about the economy this year. But plans for significant expansion or hiring are on hold over concerns about rising taxes, fees and growing government regulations.

According to the survey of members of the Los Angeles County Business Federation, or BizFed, found 61 percent of its members believe business conditions will be better this year than last, up significantly from last year and slightly from the same time last year.

Despite the optimism, when it comes to hiring new employees, the poll found only 34 percent of the companies plan to increase their workforce this year, an increase of only 3 percent from the same time last year.

April hiring did not meet analysts’ forecasts, according to data collected by the U.S. Department of Labor. In the final week of April, however, initial claims for unemployment did decrease 27,000.

As for layoffs, however, 50 percent fewer businesses are planning layoffs this year. Only 1 in 6 businesses are forecasting layoffs this year, down from 1 in 3 just a year ago, according to BizFed.

Only one-third of member businesses said they plan to invest in durable goods this year.

Locally, while the business mood is similar to the reflected in the broader county survey, local business organizations feel Santa Clarita is somewhat better positioned for growth.

“It seems as though businesses are determined to make 2012 a more successful year and are willing to work together to make that happen,” said Kathy Norris, CEO and president of the Valley Industry Association.

Working with local employers to gauge their satisfaction with the local business and operating climate in the Santa Clarita Valley, the local Economic Development Corp. believes “most of our businesses are looking forward to economic growth this year,” said Jonas Peterson, president and CEO of the SCVEDC.

“Santa Clarita really is a bright spot within Southern California,” Peterson said. “We have fared better than most communities coming out of the recession and I expect that trend to continue.”

Compared with other communities in Southern California, the city of Santa Clarita typically ranks very high for satisfaction with the local operating environment, he said.

For the second year in a row, taxes and fees and government regulation were among the BizFed members’ highest-priority concerns, the organization said.

The top five issues of concern cited by business owners surveyed are: taxes and fees, government regulations and compliance, state and local budgets, legislative gridlock and education.

“Business owners desperately need certainty from federal, state and local governments, including certainty that they won’t continue to be saddled with unending, new and ever-increasing fees, tax attacks and red tape, just to fund the government’s inability to be fiscally responsible,” said John Kelsall, Biz-Fed chairman and president and CEO of Greater Lakewood Chamber of Commerce.

Businesses are increasingly entrenched and hesitant to risk expansion, as a protective maneuver against uncertainty — so much so that it’s now impacting investment in our region and creation of new jobs, Kelsall said.

Locally, the EDC’s Business Expansion and Retention program actively reaches out to local employers, identifying areas for improvement and providing available resources to help businesses grow, Peterson said.

Companies in the Santa Clarita Valley have reported weathering the economic downturn a little better than those outside the area, even though many reported some dire moments during the recession.

“I think we’re seeing a much more optimistic, although still somewhat cautious, business community,” Norris said.



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