Connecticut business leaders say their single greatest concern is the state's economic condition, according to the 2014 Survey of Connecticut Businesses.
Each year, the survey, conducted by CBIA and the accounting, tax, and consulting firm BlumShapiro, identifies issues and trends within the state’s economic, fiscal, and regulatory climates.
Unchanged from last year's survey findings was that more than a third of respondents said the state's economy was the single biggest challenge.
National economic concerns (18%), healthcare costs (16%), state and federal tax burdens (11%), and regulatory costs (10%) followed as major challenges.
What to Do?
When asked the open-ended question of how state lawmakers could improve Connecticut’s economic competitiveness, over half of the business leaders responding to the survey said reducing taxes should be the top priority, followed by more regulatory reform (24%), curbing government spending (11%), increased tax incentives (7%), and improving transportation infrastructure (6%).
CBIA president and CEO John Rathgeber said the challenges identified in the survey and other areas hampering economic growth were the reason CBIA and dozens of other groups launched the CT20x17 campaign earlier this year, aimed at making Connecticut a top 20 state for business by 2017.
"Economic competitiveness is not just a business issue but one that touches every community, every neighborhood, and every family in Connecticut," Rathgeber said. "A competitive economic climate means more jobs, more opportunity, and a brighter future for everyone in the state.
Despite the business leaders’ concerns, more than a third said their companies were growing, and over half reported "holding steady.”
Because Connecticut is a high-cost state, innovation is critical to business growth and profitability. The survey found that 46% of businesses added new products or services in the past year and almost a third (29%) invested in research and development.
Technology was the greatest single investment for 27% of those surveyed, followed by employee training (23%), and property and facilities (23%).
Companies said they plan to increase investments in training over the next two years, with 28% indicating it will become a bigger priority.
Exporting is one of Connecticut’s economic strengths, and most manufacturers responding to the survey said they are involved in exporting, with nearly half saying they were encountering no barriers to international trade.
"Connecticut has tremendous assets and must continue to leverage them,” said Rathgeber.
“At the same time, it's critical we address those areas hampering economic growth, particularly the high cost of doing business, taxes, state budget deficits and long-term debt, red tape, and our aging transportation infrastructure.”