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Brainerd Lakes Chamber issues survey: Members optimistic about future but remain concerned about uncertainty – December 2010

Posted on: January 31st, 2011 by Brainerd Lakes Chamber

Cautious optimism sums up the mood of Brainerd Lakes Chamber members as the new year unfolds.

The 2010 Brainerd Lakes Chamber Fall Policy Survey revealed that 70 percent of respondents enjoyed business performance in 2010 that equaled or surpassed their performance in 2009. Less than a quarter of respondents, or 24 percent, said business was worse in 2010 when compared to 2009.

Four out of every five respondents – or 81 percent – said they expected net revenue in 2010 to be at least the same, or even improved, over 2009.

The significant changes businesses have made to reduce their operating expenses contributed to these more positive projections. Business owners and managers are carrying this optimistic outlook forward. About three-fifths of respondents – or 59 percent – said they are more optimistic, while 31 percent are unsure and 10 percent are less optimistic, about the 2011 Brainerd Lakes Area economy.

“When asked about their outlook on the future, many respondents indicated a concern for how government policy decisions will impact their businesses,” said Lisa Paxton, Brainerd Lakes Chamber CEO. “They also said the need to focus on these challenges presented by government involvement has taken away from their ability to focus on operating and rebuilding their businesses.”

Respondents, as part of the survey, expressed a clear message to state legislators – cut government spending and redesign services, which are measures business owners and managers have implemented in recent years. In response to the question what does Minnesota need to do to balance the state budget, 78 percent of respondents said cut government spending, 76 percent said redesign government services and 26 percent said raise taxes. Respondents were allowed to select all that apply. As a result, respondents were allowed to select raising taxes in cooperation with cutting government spending and/or redesigning services.

Other key findings of the survey include:

The cost of employee health insurance continues to be a concern. The majority of respondents, 65 percent, said it is a problem, of which nearly 40 percent said it is a severe problem. Only 50 percent of respondents said they offer employer subsidized health insurance for employees.

Even with the high unemployment in the Brainerd Lakes Area, 69 percent of respondents said finding/hiring qualified, trained workers is a problem while 65 percent said finding/hiring reliable workers is a problem. Respondents, who could rate the problem from slight to severe, said these are mostly slight problems.

Nearly all respondents find value in the advocacy work of the Brainerd Lakes Chamber, on behalf of their business interests, at the local and state government levels. For instance, 77 percent of respondents said it is very valuable and 19 percent said it is somewhat valuable when Chamber representatives are at the table representing business interests when local government is making decisions that affect area businesses

The survey was e-mailed to 890 of the primary representatives – owners and managers — of Brainerd Lakes Chamber members. Completed surveys were received, in November and December, from 162 people – a response rate of about 18 percent – representing a wide cross-section of Chamber business members. The response rate represents a 95 percent confidence level, plus or minus 4.2 percent.

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