Thursday, 21 July 2011

Business Optimism Building

At a time, when it seems the only issue of importance to our national politicians and press corps is the so called ‘hacking scandal’, I was delighted to take delivery of a report outlining the results of survey on SME views of the Hertfordshire economy. The report had been undertaken by Rayner Essex and we at the Chamber welcomed the opportunity to be associated with it.

As one sets out on a survey there is often a feeling of trepidation. Will we get the response we expect? Will it support what we have been saying about the economy and the views of the SME community? Or, will it simply show that we have absolutely no idea what’s going on?

The Chamber has been saying for some time now that the economy in Hertfordshire, although challenging, was showing signs of improvement so it was great to hear that 65% of those polled expect to increase turnover during the next 12 months and that only 10% were expecting a decline, combined with 58% expecting an increase in profitability this was, indeed, good news.

Although expectations in relation to employment did not translate directly it was also encouraging to note that 33% expected to increase headcount. Given the number of employers we meet who are reporting difficulties filling some of the vacancies they already have the future is, perhaps, not quite as gloomy as some pundits would have us believe.

Other areas explored in the survey concerned business attitudes to the support they receive from banks and local authorities. As one might have speculated the positive nature of some of the other responses was not present here. Only 27% considered their banks to be supportive whilst 61% believed them to be passive or disinterested at best. 52% thought local councils were unsupportive of local businesses. Despite the presence of a few honourable exceptions neither of these findings was very surprising and reinforces the view that a great deal more effort needs to be made if businesses are to be convinced.

Although one might be forgiven for believing that nothing more important exists than the problems of the chattering classes as they engage in their game of buck passing and self flagellation there are other issues that need our attention. We will all have our ideas of what is more important but for me the economy and its impact on businesses, jobs and our standard of living is far more important. The findings of this survey demonstrate clearly that the economy in Hertfordshire is slowly going in the right direction but I think we all know that much more needs to be done.

Full details of the survey can be found on the Chamber website