N.H. businesses see a strong ’07

A new survey suggests that most New Hampshire businesses expect overall economic conditions to stay strong in 2007.

The survey, conducted by the Business & Industry Association of New Hampshire and RKM Research and Communications, measured business confidence among a 300 New Hampshire businesses. RKM polled 100 businesses with less than 10 employees and 200 with 10 or more employees, Nov. 28 through Dec. 5.

According to the survey:

• Businesses anticipate stable or increased employment. Seventy-five (75) percent of businesses expect the number of employees working for their company to stay the same, while 21 percent expect to hire new staff.
• Many businesses expect to increase or maintain levels of capital expenditures in 2007. Thirty-four percent of businesses expect to spend more on capital goods and 52 percent expect expenditures to stay the same.
• Overall economic conditions will remain strong, according to New Hampshire businesses. Three-quarters of businesses expect the state’s current economic conditions to continue (42 percent) or improve (33 percent) in 2007. Some 25 percent of businesses anticipate worsening economic conditions in 2007, down from 29 percent last year.
• Revenue expectations are still high, but down from last year. Most businesses expect revenues to increase (46 percent) or stay the same (43 percent); however, 11 percent predict a decline in revenues for next year.

Kelly Myers, principal and director of communications research for RKM, said data on state economic activity show business expectations for economic growth in 2006 were met. He cites the lower unemployment rate — 3.4 percent, down from the state’s recent peak of 4.5 percent in 2002 — and a 35 percent increase in business profits tax revenues as evidence of improved economic conditions.

“Going into 2006, each of the four indexes used to measure business confidence registered above 50, which means most businesses were optimistic about economic growth in 2006,” said Myers. “And they remain optimistic for 2007.”

Mike Donahue, the BIA’s board chair and principal of Aries Engineering in Concord, said a slight decrease in one of the measurements — the Index of Future Revenues – “means businesses are feeling the pressure of tighter markets and rising fuel and health-care costs.”

Survey respondents cited high health insurance and high energy costs as their top concerns. Other challenges coted included a lack of qualified labor, foreign competition and attracting and marketing to new customers.

To download a copy of the full report, visit rkm-research.com. – JEFF FEINGOLD

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