Survey says mood lifting somewhat in business community | NevadaAppeal.com

Survey says mood lifting somewhat in business community

BRIAN DUGGAN
bduggan@nevadaappeal.com

Northern Nevada business leaders say the local economy hit bottom last year, and many believe it will improve during the next 12 months, according to a survey released this week.

About one-third of the 503 respondents in the fifth annual Greater Reno-Tahoe Economic Outlook Survey say they’re optimistic about the local economy in the next year, up from 19 percent in 2008. Meanwhile, 52 percent describe overall economic conditions as poor while just 2 percent say it’s good.

“By the end of 2008 we were in free fall and nobody knew where the bottom would be,” said Elliott Parker, an economist at the University of Nevada, Reno. “By 2009, we hit an outcrop and it took our breath away. We’ve stopped falling … but it is still a long way up, and we are only now getting up and brushing the dust off.”

While a majority of the respondents still were using words such as “depressed,” “dismal” and “wrong track” to describe the local economy, the survey showed a notable shift in tone compared to 2008, said Brian Bonnenfant, project manager for the Center for Regional Studies in the College of Business at the University of Nevada, Reno, who helped conduct the study with InfoSearch International, a polling firm.

“I certainly see signs of optimism,” Bonnenfant said, adding, “Locally I think it’s still a tough ride. So you’ve got these national numbers that are making people feel good.”

In 2008, 94 percent of those who responded to the survey said economic conditions had worsened compared to the previous year. In 2009, it was 56 percent.

Meanwhile, about 44 percent of firms said they plan to hire in 2010, down from 67 percent in 2007. But 20 percent said they were planning on increasing the number of employees at their firm, up from 12 percent in the 2008 survey.

The majority of those surveyed are CEOs, executives and business owners in Carson City and Washoe, Lyon, Douglas, Storey and Churchill counties who work at firms that employ 10 or fewer people.

About 2,000 business leaders in the six regional counties were e-mailed the survey in late January and early February with 503 responding.

The survey also gauged perspectives on current events and reasons for doing business in Nevada.

About 20 percent said the federal stimulus package directly or indirectly helped their business while 72 percent said it had no effect.

Other findings showed 25 percent of the firms have a “good understanding” of the so-called cap and trade legislation in Congress while 57 percent said health care legislation pending in Congress would increase their health care costs.

As for why businesses decide to relocate to the region, 52 percent said it was quality of life while 10.7 percent said it was low taxes.