Even before the recently passed state budget raised corporate taxes, business owners named Connecticut’s tax burden as one of the main challenges to doing business here, according to a new survey.
Statewide, 20 percent of business owners surveyed said the tax burden is their greatest obstacle to growing their companies, according to the CBIA/Farmington Bank 1st Quarter Economic and Credit Availability Survey.
The tax burden was the third-most cited challenge, with 31 percent saying customer base expansion was the biggest hurdle and 21 percent saying finding new workers was the biggest challenge.
Taxes often are among the main concerns cited in Connecticut Business & Industry Association surveys and reports. Officials at the trade group say the topic is one of the major issues causing some businesses to locate elsewhere.
The first-quarter survey was sent to businesses throughout the state in January, well before the latest $40 billion biennial state budget was passed earlier this month. Out of 1,800 business leaders who received it, 196 responded to the survey.
CBIA, the largest business trade group in the state, has been a vocal opponent of the new state budget, saying it will drive businesses out of the state. The still-debated budget raised state sales tax, corporate taxes and the personal income tax.
In a message on its website urging business leaders to contact lawmakers, CBIA says the budget is “unaffordable, unsustainable, and will drive jobs, businesses and people out of the state.”
“Connecticut offers and educated workforce and great quality of life, but our tax structure and business climate are starting to make businesses think twice about being here,” CBIA economist and Vice President Peter Gioia said in a statement.
When asked in January about their outlook for their companies, 6 percent of survey respondents expected things to “improve significantly,” the same as in the final quarter of 2014. One-third said they expect things to “improve somewhat”, the same as in the previous quarter, while 51 percent expected to remain stable, up slightly from 48 percent the previous quarter.
Only 1 percent of respondents expected to grow their workforces significantly in the first quarter, down slightly from 2 percent in the previous quarter. Another 27 percent expected to grow their workforces somewhat while 58 expected workforces to remain stable during the first quarter of the year.
“Business owners face a lot of challenges, and as a state, we need to ensure that we can provide them with a growing customer base and talent supply,” Gioia said.
In addition to taxes, finding workers and growing their customer base, business owners also named some other concerns: regulations, costs of doing business and legislative issues.
One relative bright spot was access to credit, according to the survey. Slightly more than a third, or 36 percent, of respondents said the lending climate in Connecticut was good or excellent during the first quarter, up from 30 percent in the previous quarter. Half of respondents said the climate was average in the first quarter, the same as in the previous quarter.
“The state’s credit environment continues to improve and companies can plan on lending institutions being ready to help when the time comes,” John Patrick Jr., CEO and president of Farmington Bank, said in statement.
Farmington Bank sponsored the survey with Datacore Partners and CBIA.
Business owners were somewhat optimistic about the lending climate going forward. Of those surveyed, 35 percent believed the credit climate in the state would improve in the next three months while 47 percent expected conditions to stay the same.
Of the 196 business leaders who responded to the survey, the largest share—37 of them—run manufacturing companies. The two next largest groups were business and professional services companies, of which 14 responded, and construction companies with 10.