A total of 263 survey respondents classified their company as being in one of the following six business sectors: Construction/Real Estate, Hospitality/Travel, Manufacturing/Professional, Retail or Service. Further, respondents listed their 2013 annual revenue within the following five brackets, as follows: Loss, $0-250,000, $251,000-500,000, $501,000-1,000,000 and Over $1,000,000.
A full 78% of all respondents believe local business conditions in 2014 will be either much better or marginally better this year. Optimism for national business conditions this year was noticeably less, with 54% of all respondents believing the broader economy will be either much better or marginally better. Optimism was universally prevalent in each business sector and in each revenue bracket.
A total of 88% of Washington County business owners expect their annual earnings to exceed those of 2013, though 74% said the year-over-year increase would be 25% or less. Businesses expecting the largest increase were those that reported a 2013 loss. These companies reported an anticipated annual increase of 43%.
As for 2014 hiring plans, 67% of business owners have already or are now planning to hire new workers. The average number of new hires among all respondents was 2.8 people. The business sectors planning the most hires this year are Manufacturing with an average of 14.9 new hires, and Hospitality/Travel with 5.4 (excluding one respondent that plans on hiring 350 people). The Construction/Real Estate sector, which represents a major portion of the Southern Utah economy, posted average expected hires of 2.3―slightly less than the Service (2.9) and Retail (2.4) sectors. The Professional sector expects to hire the least number of workers in 2014, with average expected hires of only 1.2 people. Hiring will be strongest in the 2013 revenue brackets of $501,000-1,000,000 (3.5) and Over $1,000,000 (4.8).
A majority of 53% of all survey respondents indicated that inflation is expected to have an impact on the economy. Respondents in the Retail sector had the highest percentage expectation at 55%, while the lowest expectation was in the Manufacturing sector at 38%. Inflation was also a concern of businesses in the $0-250,000 revenue bracket, with 57% of respondents believing that such pressures will be a factor this year.
The survey asked respondents how the Affordable Care Act (“Obama Care”) would impact their business in 2014. Among all respondents, 68% answered “Negative”, 6% said “Positive” and 26% said “No Impact”. Negative responses in the Construction/Real Estate sector amounted to 93%. Also, companies in the larger 2013 revenue brackets felt that Obama Care would have an ill effect on their business. Answering “Negative” were 76% of the $501,000-1,000,000 and 79% of the Above $1,000,000 companies.
Town & Country Bank CEO Bruce Jensen said that the bank wanted to gather empirical information about local business perceptions as it fine tunes its lending and deposit gathering activities in Washington County. “While our survey is not entirely scientific, it does offer insights into potential business behavior,” he said. “We hope the survey results are also of benefit to the community at large.” A total of 425 surveys were hand delivered by Town & Country bankers to area business owners. “Our distribution process was important, as it gave us many introductions to companies with whom we don’t already have a relationship,” Jensen said.
On February 19th, Town & Country Bank celebrated its sixth year of operation. It will become the only locally owned and headquartered bank in Washington County on March 1st, when the merger between The Village Bank and Cache Valley Bank is consummated. Town & Country has $82 million in assets, and has introduced several business differentiators, including its “concierge banking” model, a proprietary ATM/Debit card offering time-of-purchase discounts at hundreds of local retailers and restaurants, and its free business courier. The bank also holds free in-bank community concerts every Friday at noon. Notably, a February 2014 customer satisfaction survey indicated that 100% of the bank’s customers are “Very satisfied” (90%) or ”Pretty satisfied” (10%) with their relationship at Town & Country—the top two response options out of a total of five.