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Business owners show renewed optimism as season closes in

Lee Herald Favicon 16Business leaders appear to be cautiously optimistic headed into season despite taking Hurricane Irma on the chin just two months ago.

According to Business Climate Survey, a report conducted by the Horizon Council and Florida Gulf Coast University, business owners are feeling more optimistic about business conditions in Southwest Florida today compared to one year ago.

The survey creates an index score based on responses from executives in the area, released quarterly, and the index returned a score of 68 for the fourth quarter of 2017, up one point from the third quarter and five points from the fourth quarter of 2016. The index is scored from 0 to 100, with 100 the highest.

“That the index rose slightly from a survey conducted just a few weeks after Hurricane Irma blew through here is significant,” said FGCU economist Chris Westley, head of the Regional Economic Research Institute.  “Business people appear cautiously optimistic heading into season.”

In the report, 76 percent of local business owners said they expected to see the economy improve over the next year, with 73 percent saying that’s the case for their own industry.

In addition, 68 percent said they planned in increase investment and 52 percent said they plan to increase employment in the next year.

But it was a mixed bag in some ways.

While business leaders were generally positive about the overall conditions for business in the area, they were less so when it came to newer and startup businesses.

Only 26 percent of those surveyed said they believed the area did a good job promoting young and startup companies. 57 percent gave the area an average grade, while 17 percent said they did a poor or worse job.

At the same time, business owners appeared to agree that creating an entrepreneurial community in the area was important to the area’s development, with 44 percent answering a 1 to 5 scale question with a 5, and another 36 percent answering a 4.

“It’s a pretty grim verdict on the region’s entrepreneurial culture,” Westley said. “Either respondents were not aware of the public and private investments in this culture over the past 10 years, or they thought they haven’t been sufficient.”

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