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Business Survey Shows Confidence In State And Local Economy, Anxiety Over Federal Policies

WAMC/Pat Bradley

The Plattsburgh North Country Regional Chamber of Commerce released its annual business survey and confidence index this morning. 

The Chamber sent questionnaires to 4,200 member businesses in Clinton,  Franklin, Essex, Hamilton and northern Warren counties. It surveys business owners on a number of federal, state and regional issues and extrapolates the results to determine a business confidence index.
Plattsburgh North Country Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Garry Douglas noted they focused on a few of the hot issues that are most in play relating to business.  “On the Federal level when asked to characterize their position on the current levels of federal spending and debt an overwhelming 87 percent indicated they are ‘very concerned’.”

But at the state and local level, Douglas said, the survey showed considerable optimism. It affirmed support for the tax relief measures proposed by the governor and for significant mandate relief. Douglas found the strongest regional issues supported a proposed occupancy tax in Franklin County and expansion of the Plattsburgh International Airport terminal.  “One of the things that we see is that this perception of things in their own backyard and with their own business is much stronger here in the North Country than it is about the country at large. Nationally only 25 percent believe that the national economy will move upward this year. Yet 58 percent believe their own business here in the North Country, therefore things in their immediate back yard, are on the up. That’s more than two to one. So there’s this amazing culture of optimism and resilience here in the North Country that makes them feel better about their own backyard than what they feel about the country at large.”

With 58 percent of the surveyed businesses expecting to see an increase in business and 34 percent expecting it to be steady over the next year, the Chamber Announced the 2014 business confidence index is 92 percent, up 2 percent from 2013.

The Chamber points to a number of factors contributing to the regional optimism including an increase in Canadian tourism and investment. There has been a drop in unemployment, and the North Country was the only region in the state last year that increased manufacturing jobs. The North Country Regional Economic Development  Council has three times secured a “Top Performer” status.

Town of Plattsburgh Supervisor Bernie Bassett says local government has been a factor in drawing businesses together and fostering a positive business climate in the region.  “The leaders have become involved. There’s really a regional approach to working with business. Our team sits down now and they get our little sprocket in that wheel that we’ve got to be business friendly. When we have a proposal come forward we see it as an opportunity to help this business drive some roots into the ground in the North Country. So I think there’s real change in activity that generated the optimism.”

Primelink President and General Manager Greg MacConnell is chair of the Chamber’s Legislative Committee. He is not surprised that the survey reflects more discontent with federal policies and actions. “The closer you get to the local level the more you can get things accomplished, usually. There is trickle down from the national level. Is there an impact when we have government shutdowns at the national level? Very much so. Certainly in our region we have the border and very real federal impact. But on balance, the way we get things done is state, local, regional.”

The Plattsburgh North Country Chamber of Commerce annual issue survey received a response rate of 10 percent.

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