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Northern Nevada businesses report bleak 2009, but higher hopes for 2010

By ThisIsReno

SUBMITTED NEWS RELEASE

University of Nevada, Reno and InfoSearch release survey results

According to northern Nevada business leaders, economic conditions may have bottomed out in 2009, as their economic outlook for 2010 is much more optimistic than it was a year ago.

The Center for Regional Studies at the University of Nevada, Reno College of Business with InfoSearch International released the annual Greater Reno-Tahoe Economic Outlook Business Survey today. The survey has been conducted since 2004, with the University’s Center and InfoSearch taking over sponsorship of the project this year. This year’s survey was the most far-reaching, with 503 individual survey responses collected from 438 unique companies in Carson City and Churchill, Douglas, Lyon, Storey and Washoe Counties.

The survey was conducted Jan. 19 to Feb. 4 to measure business leaders’ opinions about the regional business environment, including existing and anticipated economic conditions, employment needs, and the advantages and challenges of conducting business in the Greater Reno-Tahoe area.

“We think it’s important to continue to monitor this type of information and make it available to our business, community and state leaders,” said Greg Mosier, dean of the University’s College of Business. “This is a service we can provide to help our leaders make well-informed decisions, especially during these difficult economic times. The survey includes a wealth of information about the challenges and trends being experienced by area business.”

The survey also includes a local Economic Outlook Index (EOI), which mirrors a national methodology based upon six components, designed to measure and track the change in the economic outlook over time. This year, the local EOI of 62.8 was up considerably from last year’s local EOI of 45.7, but still below that of the previous year, 70.1.

“Overall, we see that northern Nevada businesses are still hurting,” said Mosier. “But, there are signs that businesses surveyed think things will begin looking up this year.”
Some of the telling results include:

  • Nearly one-third (31 percent) of respondents this year indicated they expected overall economic conditions in the area to improve in the next 12 months, up from 19 percent who anticipated improvement in last year’s survey.
  • Thirty-six percent of respondents this year anticipated that their firms’ revenues would increase during the next 12 months, up from 25 percent of respondents last year. Additionally, 21 percent of respondents this year anticipated that capital expenditures would increase, up from 11 percent last year.
  • This year, about 35 percent of respondents reported that overall economic conditions had remained about the same compared to one year prior. Nine percent actually indicated that overall economic conditions had improved compared to a year ago. While 56 percent of respondents this year indicated that economic conditions had worsened compared to a year ago, this is a significant decrease compared to last year, when 94 percent of respondents indicated they thought economic conditions had worsened compared to the year before.
  • This year, about 60 percent of respondents expect their firms’ number of employees to remain the same during the next 12 months. The other 40 percent is split, with about half of them expecting an increase, and about half of them expecting a decrease. Last year, about 34 percent of respondents expected a decrease, while only 12 percent expected an increase, and 54 percent expected the number of employees to remain the same. Regardless of whether they expect their total number of employees to increase or decrease, about 44 percent of respondents this year expect to hire employees during the next 12 months.

This year’s survey also revealed some other interesting perspectives and trends from the respondents, who were mostly owners, partners, presidents, CEOs, executives or managers:

  • Despite the continued political debate surrounding the issues of taxes and tax incentives, only 11 percent said that the “business tax advantage” was what they like most about doing business in the area. The top response was “quality of life,” with 52 percent of respondents reporting it as what they like most. Another 17 percent said “location” was what they like most about doing business here, and 10 percent said that the “favorable business climate” was what they like most.
  • Finding qualified and skilled employees is still a challenge in the area. Twenty-five percent of respondents reported having difficulty finding qualified/skilled employees. When asked to identify the three most significant challenges overall for their firm, 26 percent of respondents identified hiring skilled employees as one of their top three challenges. Another 11 percent identified retaining skilled employees as one of their top three challenges. The number one challenge identified was increasing sales.
  • Seventy percent of respondents reported using some form of digital or social media, with 42 percent of respondents using email list-serves, 35 percent using Facebook, 21 percent using Web blogs, 16 percent using Twitter, and 9 percent using other forms.
  • Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of respondents are now outsourcing at least one business function. Information technology and human resources/payroll are the two most commonly outsourced business functions.
  • Travel and use of consultants are two of the biggest casualties of the current economic recession, with 63 percent of respondents reporting their firms have reduced travel outside the region, and 52 percent reporting a decrease in their use of consultants.

Mosier says the Center for Regional Studies in the College of Business will continue to conduct the survey in partnership with InfoSearch International at least annually. Plans are underway to try to conduct the survey biannually, once in January and once in July, to more closely monitor the pulse of the area’s economic climate and the challenges and needs of area businesses.

The survey results are available free of charge at www.centerforregionalstudies.org/bizoutlook. For more information, call Mosier, 775-784-4912; or Brian Bonnenfant, project manager of the Center for Regional Studies in the College of Business at the University of Nevada, Reno, 775-784-1771.

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