Survey Finds Modest Growth, Continuing Challenges for Region

Only half of Fairfield County's businesses expect to be profitable this year, as the region's economy slowed amid concerns about the national economy, transportation infrastructure, and operating costs, according to a survey released today.

The 2011 Fairfield County Business Survey, published by the Connecticut Business & Industry Association and the Stamford Chamber of Commerce, in partnership with BlumShapiro and TD Bank, identifies issues and trends within the region's economic, fiscal, and regulatory climates.

Just 53 percent of those surveyed expected to turn a profit in 2011, against 60 percent who were profitable in 2010. Those figures compare with the 84 percent of the region's businesses who were profitable in 2007, prior to the recession.

"We were hopeful that 2011 was going to be the year of growth," said Jack Condlin, president and CEO of the Stamford Chamber of Commerce. "The first half was encouraging, but the third quarter took the wind out of our sails."

[See the complete 2011 Fairfield County Business Survey (pdf)]

While many firms are on track for growth, a sizeable minority continue to struggle. One-quarter of those business that responded to the biennial survey were in the red this year, while 23 percent expected economic conditions to worsen in 2012.

"Considering that we are over two years into a 'technical' economic recovery, these figures reflect an economy that is still stressed," said Pete Gioia, CBIA economist and vice president.

Other key survey findings:

  • Thirteen percent of firms recently expanded, and another 31% plan to. More than half of all companies surveyed cite the cost of doing business, including regulatory and tax burdens, as a barrier to expansion.
  • Though most companies surveyed (72%) have no direct ties to the financial services sector, more than three-quarters (76%) acknowledge the sector's importance to the region's economy.
  • Nearly half of respondents (48%) reported that skilled workers were not readily available in Fairfield County, a sharp increase over 2009 (22 percent).
  • Improvements to and expansion of I-95 were identified as the best solutions to the region's transportation problems.
  • Fairfield County's traditional strengths: its quality of life and prime market location: continued to shine as the greatest benefit for businesses to operate in the region.

While Fairfield County business leaders believe government often makes it more difficult for them to succeed and are not convinced that their state tax dollars are used effectively, they also believe that there are opportunities for the public sector to help the region be more competitive.

For example, they believe policies that reduce business costs, increase the availability of skilled workers, and result in transportation improvements and better access to capital would greatly benefit businesses in the region.

"This survey shows that there are a lot of areas where Connecticut policymakers can take action to lower the cost of doing business, improve infrastructure, and instill the confidence that businesses need," said CBIA's Gioia." The October 26 special General Assembly session gives them a forum to initiate positive change."

The 2011 Fairfield County Business Survey was emailed to nearly 3,000 executives;195 completed the survey, for a return rate 6.5% and a margin of error +/-7.1 %.All figures are rounded to the nearest whole number and may not total 100%.

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CBIA is Connecticut's largest business organization, with 10,000 member companies. For more information, please contact Joe Budd (860.244.1951; joe.budd@cbia.com).

The Stamford Chamber of Commerce is the largest business group in southwestern Connecticut, representing more than 1,600 firms, and works to advance the city's civic and economic vitality. For more information, visit stamfordchamber.com.

BlumShapiro is the largest regional accounting, tax, and business consulting firm based in New England, with offices in West Hartford and Shelton, CT, and Rockland, MA. For more information about BlumShapiro, visit blumshapiro.com.

TD Bank, America's Most Convenient Bank, is one of the 10 largest banks in the U.S., providing more than 7.4 million customers with a full range of retail, small business and commercial banking products and services. For more information about TD Bank, visit tdbank.com.