Most business leaders in northwest Connecticut expect to see increased sales or profits at their companies next year, but many have no plans to grow their workforces amid the gains, according to a new survey.
More than half, 59 percent, of executives in the northwest corner of the state said they anticipate increased sales revenue in 2015 while 46 percent are expecting growth in pre-tax profits next year, according to the 2014 Northwest Connecticut Business Survey.
But despite their optimism, just 36 percent plan to add to their workforce next year. Slightly more than half, 55 percent, said they foresee no change in their employee numbers while 9 percent expect to have fewer workers next year than they do this year.
The Connecticut Business and Industry Association and Northwest Connecticut Chamber of Commerce conducted the survey, to which 194 business leaders in the northwestern part of state responded.
The survey showed that the state’s aging workforce increasingly weighs on business owners’ minds. About two-thirds, or 67 percent, said they are somewhat or very concerned about the impact Connecticut’s aging population will have on their ability to maintain a workforce, up 11 percentage points from the last time the survey was conducted in 2012.
Aging workers present a real challenge for business owners in the state, according to Pete Gioia, CBIA’s vice president and economist. Some worry about filling job vacancies left by older, experienced workers who retire.
“Ensuring that state schools and training programs can produce enough skilled, top-quality, young workers to meet the needs of companies losing workers to retirement, or that are growing, is a top priority,” Gioia said.
CBIA is the largest business trade group in the state and often polls business owners statewide to gauge their sentiment about Connecticut’s business climate.
When asked what skills they feel will be most in demand going forward, the largest share of respondents, 37 percent, named industry-specific skills such as those needed by employers in the medical, utility, manufacturing and construction fields. The second-highest percentage of respondents, 28 percent, said computer and IT skills likely will be most in demand.
Workforce concerns also surfaced in other questions of the survey. When asked to identify what they feel should be economic priorities going forward, 26 percent said retaining a skilled workforce. It was the third most popular response, behind growing the area’s manufacturing business base and regional collaboration to attract business investment.
Asked to name the biggest disadvantage to doing business in their part of the state, 43 percent of respondents cited a high cost of living, followed by 19 percent who complained of an inability to retain young talent.
The greatest advantages to doing business in northwest Connecticut, respondents said, are the region’s proximity to New York, Boston, and Springfield, Mass.; the local environment, active local banks, arts and entertainment opportunities, and a supportive chamber of commerce.
Despite some lingering concerns, Northwest Connecticut Chamber of Commerce President and CEO JoAnn Ryan said it’s a positive sign that companies are forecasting better revenue and profits next year.
“This region’s ability to thrive during this challenging period is testimony to the strength and vitality of the business community dedicated to making northwest Connecticut an even better plan in which to live and work,” she said in a statement.
“Regional collaborations will sustain our corner of the state as it rebounds and help it thrive in this highly competitive global market,” she said.