Economic Survey Results

Addison County Economic Development Corporation (ACEDC) member Davis & Hodgdon Associates CPAs recently released their survey findings. Over 100 Vermont businesses completed this latest semi-annual economic survey in January regarding the outlook of Vermont’s small- to medium-sized businesses. The survey, also presented by the Vermont Chamber of Commerce, revealed that while opinions about the Vermont and US economies are moving in a positive direction, there is still a great desire to see improvement in the state’s business climate and tax laws.

  • 18% of businesses exclusive to Vermont believe the state’s economy is in decline (compared to 33% in July); 18% feel it is improving (compared to 14% previously) and 61% indicate there is no change (compared to 48% previously).
  • 24% of businesses doing business outside the state believe the state’s economy is declining (compared to 32% previously); 19% feel it is improving (18% previously); and 46% see no change (47% previously).
  • When asked to describe the current state of the US economy, respondents in both groups appeared more positive than they did in July. 49% feel it is improving (35% in July), only 12% believe it is declining (versus 21% in July), and 31% see no change at all (versus 41% in July).

Respondents’ expectations for business growth is similar to those from the July survey.  56% expect sales to increase (similar to the 59% who expected growth back in July), 42% intend to increase capital spending (compared to 39% previously), and 40% look to increase the size of their staff (versus 36% in July).

Respondents identified the top three key issues facing their business as:

  1. taxes (Federal & State tax laws: 50% and Property tax: 33%),
  2. health insurance costs (60%), and
  3. finding qualified employees (49%).

These are the same key issues that business owners have identified in the previous four semi-annual surveys, however it is noteworthy that they are much more concerned about Vermont tax laws (34%) and Property tax (33%) than with Federal tax laws (20%).

Similarly, when asked to identify one business economic issue they want to see addressed by the state legislature this year, most respondents expressed continued concern with:

  • high taxes,
  • too much (over) regulation, and
  • an overall lack of economic development efforts.

Business owners were once again asked if they had considered moving their residence outside of Vermont. Survey results revealed that half (50%) of respondents (comparable to the 54% in July) have considered or have put plans in motion to leave Vermont.

Finally, business owners were asked to describe their mindset about doing business in Vermont and 67% of those surveyed relayed that while doing business in Vermont has its challenges, they are committed to staying because their customers/clients/products/supply chain/environment are here. This is a considerable improvement since July, when only 50% of respondents expressed this same commitment.

“These results are very much in line with those from the Vermont Business Roundtable (VBR) – Economic & Policy Resources (EPR) Quarterly Business Conditions Survey which was also done in January,” said John Davis, managing partner of Davis & Hodgdon Associates. “In their survey of the state’s larger businesses, slightly less than half of responses to the question about the state’s overall business climate outlook were positive (46%). The remaining responses were split between neutral (32%) and negative (22%). Just over half of respondents (51%) shared negative outlooks specifically with ease of hiring for available positions, compared to 60% in the previous survey.”