HARTFORD, CT — Connecticut businesses are “holding steady” — keeping a cautious eye on legislative priorities and the unresolved state budget — according to a survey released today.
Asked about their near-term outlooks, the largest share of business leaders surveyed, or 49 percent, said their companies are holding steady, down slightly from 51 percent last year. Another 36 percent said their companies are growing (unchanged from a year ago), and 16 percent are contracting (up from 13 percent last year), according to the 2017 Survey of Connecticut Businesses.
The survey, produced by the Connecticut Business and Industry Association and BlumShapiro, was sent to businesses statewide in June and garnered 440 respondents.
Many businesses in the state are thriving, with 65 percent expecting to be profitable this year, while 24 percent expect to break even and 11 percent anticipate losses, the survey found.
“We continue to see positive signs for Connecticut’s business community — profitability is still up from five years ago and losses are at a 10-year low — despite the turmoil and lack of a state budget,” BlumShapiro CEO Joseph A. Kask said in a statement.
But concerns linger: 78 percent cited a high cost of living as the main factor affecting their ability to grow, while 72 percent said uncertainty and unpredictability of legislative decision making was problematic. Also, 69 percent cited high business taxes, 68 percent named government mandates, and 55 percent said inadequately skilled job applicants are obstacles.
“As Connecticut continues to grow, this survey should be on the desk of every state legislator, as their actions on the state budget will either bolster or erode the ability to create and keep Connecticut jobs,” CBIA Senior Vice President of Public Policy Brian Flaherty said in a statement.
The business community has repeatedly voiced similar concerns in recent months. A survey released in August found a shrinking number of state companies expect to grow amid the budget uncertainty, and surveys in June and May showed employers in the energy and manufacturing sectors are struggling to fill jobs.
In the survey released Friday, business leaders were asked about various legislative priorities. Most, or 81 percent, don’t support raising the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour, and 75 percent feel a state-mandated family medical leave program would hurt their businesses.
Also, on the legislative front, 91 percent of those surveyed support eliminating the use of overtime in pension calculations, 88 percent support delaying medical coverage until early retirees reach a certain age and ending early retirement programs, 88 percent support starting a defined contribution plan for all new state employees, and 83 percent support increasing the retirement age.
The legislature approved a $1.57 billion labor package earlier this year that creates a hybrid pension system for all new state employees. The new plan combines a traditional 401k with a defined benefit system and caps overtime at 60 percent.
“The results of this survey are strongly aligned with CBIA’s call to action at the State Capitol: build the confidence, momentum, and investment needed to expand the economy,” said Flaherty.
On a federal level, 80 percent of respondents said their businesses would benefit if the federal government implemented a 15-percent corporate tax rate or lowered personal income tax rates.
The biggest factors driving profit and growth among businesses in the state, according to the survey, are increased customer sales, tax incentives and lower costs, and investment in workforce talent. The factors most driving losses, on the other hand, are the high cost of taxes, regulations and mandates; decreased sales; and difficulty finding qualified workers to replace retirees.