Chamber survey: Businesses intend to delay hiring, making capital buys

Results of a Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce survey released Thursday indicate local businesses aren’t planning for much change in the new year.

Half of the chamber members who took the survey between Nov. 8 and Nov. 23 said they planned to delay capital expenditures during the next six months because of the economy, and 70 percent said they would maintain staffing levels over the same period. Fifty-three percent said they expected sales at their companies to remain steady during the next six months.

Most of the respondents to the survey’s eight questions said their view of the economy is still bleak. Eighty-seven percent said they view the national economy as “weak” or “extremely weak,” and 76 percent have the same perception of the local economy. No one characterized the local or national economies as “strong.”

These views aren’t new. Forty-nine percent of those surveyed said their feelings about the economy haven’t changed since this spring. Twenty-six percent said they’re more pessimistic now than they were this spring, and 24 percent said they are more optimistic now.

The numbers show more people are willing to accept the “new normal” of a slower local economy, according to Chamber President and Chief Executive Officer Diane Schwenke.

“Overall, I just think people thought we were going to bounce back quicker in the spring” when the last economic-outlook survey was offered, Schwenke said. “Now reality has hit that that didn’t happen.”

In the spring survey, 29 percent of respondents said they believed economic recovery had begun or would begin by the end of 2011. The most popular prediction in the fall survey for when the local economy will begin to recover from the Great Recession was 2013, with 28 percent of the vote.

Twenty-three percent predicted recovery would begin late next year, and 6 percent predicted it will come early next year.

Fourteen percent of survey-takers said recovery already has begun in the Grand Valley. Twenty-three percent predicted it won’t arrive until 2014 or later.

Consumer confidence is expected to have the biggest impact on local businesses in the next six months, according to 44 percent of survey-takers. Thirty-six percent said they see a perception of a weak economy as the biggest hurdle to overcome, while 20 percent said they most fear increased business costs due to new fees or regulations.

“We’re not anticipating a rebound anymore, and we have to hunker down, and it’s going to be a while before we see the kind of sustainable levels of growth that make people confident about the future,” Schwenke said.


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