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Survey: Cautious optimism at local companies

Gioia

Of Fairfield County businesses responding to a recent survey, only half expect to be profitable this year, with another quarter of them girding for a 2011 loss.

Just 53 percent of local businesses responding to a survey published by the Connecticut Business and Industry Association and the Stamford Chamber of Commerce expect to turn a profit this year, compared to 60 percent that were profitable in 2010.

CBIA and the chamber said Fairfield County companies as a group are slightly optimistic heading into 2012, though about one in four expect economic conditions to worsen. Fairfield County’s traditional strengths – its quality of life and prime market location – were cited as the greatest benefit for businesses established here.

Just 13 percent of respondents have recently expanded, though nearly a third are planning to do so. More than half of all companies surveyed cited the cost of doing business, including regulatory and tax burdens, as a barrier to business expansion.

“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, in a prepared statement. “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.”

CBIA and the Stamford chamber queried nearly 200 companies on multiple issues, with the survey co-sponsored by BlumShapiro and TD Bank. The survey carries a margin of error of plus or minus 7 percent. Nearly one in four respondents were in professional services, 18 percent were manufacturers and 11 percent were in financial services or real estate.

Though more than 70 percent of businesses surveyed have no direct ties to the financial services sector, more than three-quarters acknowledged the sector’s importance to the region’s economy.

Nearly half reported that skilled workers were not readily available in Fairfield County, a sharp increase over 2009 when that was an issue for just 22 percent of companies surveyed.

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