CBIA BizCast: 2023 Survey of Connecticut Businesses
What are the main challenges for Connecticut businesses right now?
“These days? It’s labor, labor, labor, and costs,” said Marcum’s Hartford office managing partner Michael Brooder.
“It’s the fight to retain talent, and how are they doing that?”
CBIA partnered with Marcum LLP on the 2023 Survey of Connecticut Businesses.
The responses shed light on the economic outlook for the state and concerns of businesses, including workforce crisis and the high cost of living and doing business in Connecticut.
“If you look at the open jobs and the availability of people that are there to fill them, it’s just that they’re not there,” Brooder said.
Brooder noted that many of the responses are similar to what businesses were dealing with last year.
“I don’t think there’s any huge optimistic growth,” he said.
“We want to see more of that, more growth, more new businesses starting, and more people coming to Connecticut.”
Nearly 600 businesses, representing companies of all sizes, responded to the survey.
“99% of the companies in Connecticut are classified as small businesses,” said Brooder. “And they seem to be the ones that are hurting the most.”
“When it comes to costs, the big businesses can absorb those rate increases and salary increases, smaller companies have a hard time.”
Brooder highlighted that survey respondents focused not only on business costs and taxes, but also costs for individuals.
“They talked about real estate taxes, they talked about property taxes, and motor vehicle taxes,” he said.
“Those aren’t all business related. Those are a lot of personal related as well.”
The rising cost of healthcare was another key issue for business leaders.
“We talked about labor shortages and trying to attract talent, they’re still going out of their way to pay for those high cost items, because they have to,” he said. “It’s important to their employees.”
But being able to afford those rising costs is becoming more difficult, especially for the smallest companies.
“Well, for them, it’s nearly impossible,” Brooder said. “When you’re talking really small, employees 10 or less, it’s very hard.”
“Hopefully, we can find ways to reduce those costs, because what we’re hearing is healthcare costs, going forward, are only going to increase.”
As the state deals with the labor shortage crisis, Brooder said companies are also finding innovative ways to attract and retain talent in an increasingly competitive market.
He said the state does offer initiatives for workforce development, but not enough businesses take advantage.
“Maybe it is an education process,” he said.
“Maybe people need to go out to these companies and educate them on how to use the programs that are out there.”
Many businesses have also increased wages to attract and retain workers, despite rising costs.
“I think it’s good for the employees, but for the employer side is cost,” Brooder said.
“I think it’s good for the economy. But the GDP has to kind of mirror that and continue to grow for those companies to be able to sustain those wage increases.”
Time for Action
Brooder said that Connecticut’s economy overall is as healthy as it’s been in a long time.
And he said that makes now an important time for action to help businesses.
“You always want to try to do stuff when you’re healthy and things are good, as opposed to the alternative when you’re up against the wall and times are tough,” he said.
“And as for small businesses, I think they want to act now because most of them are family businesses, right? Well, family are here.
“Smaller businesses want to see the growth of the community, want to see the growth of their family.”
Brooder said that businesses were able to persevere through the pandemic, and he thinks we can get Connecticut’s economy to the next level.
“Let’s figure out how to grow, and let’s figure out how to be competitive, and let’s figure out how to make Connecticut a place where people want to do business,” he said.
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