Poll: Hudson Valley execs gloomy on 2013 outlook
Hudson Valley business executives, uncertain about government regulation and the economic climate, are forecasting a tougher business environment in 2013, according to a new confidence survey.
The 199 top executives and senior managers from Westchester County and the Hudson Valley reflected a slightly pessimistic outlook, according to First Niagara's annual survey of upstate New York business leaders. Based on a scale of 1-200, with 200 being the most optimistic, the leaders registered a current confidence index of 78.1 and a future confidence index of 88.9.
Thirty-nine percent said business conditions in New York State were a little or considerably worse, compared with 25 percent who said they were a little or considerably better. The remainder said there was no appreciable change.
Laurence Gottlieb, Westchester County's director of the Office of Economic Development, Washington's dysfunction is contributing to the troubled climate.
"As one person described it to me, you almost feel like you're living in a house with parents that should be divorced," he said. "What's going on in Washington is still creating this ripple effect of uncertainty across the country. There's still trepidation and fear and it's like kryptonite to businesses."
The survey of Hudson Valley business leaders, conducted by the Siena College Research Institute, was part of a broader survey of 1,142 upstate New York business executives in 55 counties but excluding New York City and Long Island. The sixth annual survey for the first time included the Hudson Valley region, defined as Dutchess, Orange, Putnam, Rockland, Ulster, Columbia, Greene and Westchester counties.
Surveyed were chief executive officers, chief financial officers and other senior managers of private companies with $5 million to $150 million in annual sales in the service, manufacturing, engineering and construction, retail, wholesale and distribution, financial and food and beverage industries.
"The entire survey shows many company executives have taken a step back in their confidence levels compared to recent years as they continue to operate their businesses in the 'new normal' while waiting for a more robust economy," David Ring, managing director of Enterprise Banking for First Niagara Bank, said in a news release. "Business leaders from the Hudson Valley/Westchester region mirror that outlook. However, it is very important their companies remain focused and prepared in the event higher consumer confidence and spending forecasts become a reality in 2013."
The leaders' cloudy outlook extended to hiring plans, the survey found. Sixty-four percent of the executives said they expected their workforce to remain the same, 19 percent said they expect to hire more workers in 2013 and 16 percent said they will cut their workforce.
Although more Hudson Valley executives expect revenues to grow than shrink in 2013, 37 to 31 percent, only 27 percent forecast an increase in profits, while 37 percent predicted a decrease in the bottom line.
Asked about their most vexing challenges, Hudson Valley business leaders listed government regulation (22 percent), adverse economic conditions (20 percent), taxation (13 percent), health care costs (12 percent) and cash flow (12 percent).
Gottlieb said that the scattered responses reflect a fractured economy that varies according to industry and region.
"It's an economy with many faces and many stories," he said. "You don't hear one narrative woven through the fabric of the economy."
Complicating the outlook is uncertainty on federal taxes and health care policies.
"Businesses that have a handle on where they are and need to be are making investments," Gottlieb said. "Businesses that are still in the dark are not happy ... This is not just about the U.S. They're doing business overseas -- Europe's flat and getting worse. China's flat. South America is uneven. All these things are weighing on the minds of business owners."
The 26-question survey was conducted during the fourth quarter of 2012.