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Siena Research Institute finds improving business sentiment report

Business leaders in upstate New York say things are improving after two difficult pandemic years.

The Siena College Research Institute released its 15th annual survey of Upstate New York Business Leaders Friday.

Don Levy, director of the Siena College Research Institute, says it shows CEOs across Upstate New York have turned a corner and are starting to become more optimistic.

"Most especially, expectations for 2022's revenue and profits are up from where they were a year ago," Levy said "Nearly half of CEOs told us that they expect the revenues to be up. Over a third expect their profits to be up this year, and 55%, up from only 41% a year ago, say they plan to invest in their business by purchasing fixed assets. As far as employment outlooks, we see 44%, the highest number we've seen in quite a while, who say they are looking to hire. Many of them saw their labor force decrease during the course of the pandemic, but that's when some of the problems start to come in. Only 20% of CEOs told us they are not having difficulties recruiting and retaining workers. That's even if they are offering bonuses and higher wages. So the great search for employees continues."

Levy says obstacles on the road to recovery include inflationary tendencies.

"70% of the CEOs told us that the suppliers have raised costs to them," Levy said. "There is this weight on their shoulders in terms of paying their employees more, and, 36%, the highest number we have ever seen in fifteen years of asking this question, 36% now say that they themselves will raise prices to their customers moving forward. We conducted the survey prior to the war in Eastern Europe at that time 47% of CEOs told us they were concerned about rising energy costs and only 20% about global political instability. I think those numbers would be significantly higher today."

Paul Zuber, Executive Vice President of the Business Council of New York State, concedes while there are workforce challenges and supply chain issues, CEOs are bullish about recovery.

"We're excited by the fact that we have a strong budget with a large surplus," said Zuber. "And we're hopeful that the legislature takes into account and Governor Hochul takes into account that because of the pandemic, our unemployment insurance that ballooned to $9 billion. And the result of that will ultimately lead to increased unemployment insurance taxes for many of our businesses, if not all of our businesses. So we're hopeful that the legislature and the governor will take action on that because that will be another issue that will impact our businesses as we continue to move past the COVID pandemic. But all in all, we're optimistic and excited by the fact that many of our businesses are seeing some upside, seeing some light at the end of the tunnel. And we look forward to working with the Hochul administration and working with our elected officials, as well as our businesses to continue moving New York forward."

Nearly a third of upstate New York CEOs say business conditions have improved recently, up from 9% last year and 17% two years ago. And 60 percent expect conditions to stay the same or improve. Siena’s business leader sentiment index is also sharply up, to 94.4 from 68.7 last year. But just 13% of business leaders say there is an ample supply of local workers trained for their needs.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.