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Chamber survey finds North Country business confidence down but still strong

Business confidence levels have decreased, but remain strong. That’s according to an annual survey by the North Country Chamber of Commerce.

Every year the North Country Chamber asks its members if they expect business activity to increase, remain steady or diminish. From that the Chamber calculates a Business Confidence Index. Last year the survey found 90 percent expressing confidence that business would be up or steady. The results this year dropped to 80 percent. The annual survey finds that 51 percent expect growth and 29 percent expect no change this year. Chamber President Garry Douglas isn’t surprised by the results.

“Last year there were indications in the cautionary notes from our members that we might see some loss of confidence if things like workforce, inflation and supply chain problems, if those didn’t happen a year later we might see those numbers drop. Oh, well, no surprise we did. I think what’s very gratifying is how strong they remained. We still ended up with an 80 percent figure and we still ended up with a majority of businesses still expecting their business activity to be up this year, only 20 percent expecting it to be down.”

If there is a recession, 62 percent responded that the North Country region is better positioned economically than most rural areas of New York. Douglas attributes that to the region’s long-term economic development strategy.

“We’ve succeeded over the last 30 years in developing a very diverse manufacturing base and a very diverse economy. Almost all of those sectors are actually doing very well and continuing to do very well, particularly sectors like transportation equipment. And then of course the Canadian border reopened this past year and that certainly has fed positivity for many of our sectors.”

The survey asks members what issues they think the state and federal governments must take action on to improve the economic climate. At the state level businesses want legislators to avoid any new mandates, address the workforce shortage and increase affordable housing. Assemblyman D. Billy Jones, a Democrat who represents the 115th District, notes that several of the economic issues are national and global problems.

“What can we do on the state level? I would say implement the gas tax holiday again. We can be taking steps to help people with fees and taxes. As far as our region, as the North Country Chamber of Commerce index has indicated, businesses are still doing pretty good, but we have their challenges. We have workforce challenges. That is a nationwide issue as well. Housing. We need to come up with a housing plan. We need to come up with an affordability plan for housing and also increase our housing stock. That is just a must.”

Creating 800,000 new housing units is a key plank in Governor Kathy Hochul’s budget proposal.

On federal issues, the Chamber survey found that 95 percent of regional business want the U.S. and Canadian governments to continue work on normalizing border crossings; 91 percent say supply chain issues must be controlled and 90 percent want inflation dealt with. Eighty-nine percent of regional business also support state and federal support for affordable childcare.

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