Jacksonville economy below average, but outlook better

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  • | 12:00 p.m. June 25, 2010
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by Karen Brune Mathis

Managing Editor

Jacksonville businesses haven’t improved their assessment of the area economy much, according to a survey by CenterBank of Jacksonville.

More than 69 percent of those surveyed this spring rated the Jacksonville area economy as below average.

That’s better than the almost 58 percent who said last fall that the economy was below average.

Back then, 33 percent actually rated the local economy as poor. That improved to 23 percent this spring who considered things that bleak.

But they also said they expect some better times ahead.

While 46 percent expected conditions to stay the same the next six months, another almost 44 percent said Jacksonville’s economy would do moderately better.

“There’s not a lot of change in the opinions over the last quarter or two. I think it’s actually a little worse now out there, their perception of the nation and local economy,” said Stephen Veniard, senior vice president of CenterBank of Jacksonville.

“There seems to be a lot of uncertainty and they are still pretty negative. The outlook for the next six months is still somewhat pessimistic.”

CenterBank produces the Small Business Trends and Expectations Survey with the Coggin College of Business at the University of North Florida.

It issued its spring/summer report this week.

They survey customers and databases of small businesses in the Jacksonville metropolitan area in a wide range of industries.

The survey asks about current, past and anticipated economic conditions in Jacksonville, the nation and industries. It also asks a special question in each survey, such as adding staff.

While Veniard said the outlook is a little better, nothing is substantially better.

“It seems that everybody is kind of holding back because the political arena is so uncertain and I don’t think they know which way the economy is heading,” said Veniard.

Veniard said CenterBank started the semiannual surveys in 2004, “when things looked a lot better in our graphs and charts.”

“But I think this is the bottom as far as their perception of current economic conditions,” he said.

The survey is available at www.centerbankjax.com.

According to the survey:

• Most respondents, more than two of three, said the current Jacksonville economy, as of the spring, was below average. Another one in five said it was poor.

• More than half said the current national economy was below average and another almost 40 percent ranked it poor.

• The largest share said the current Jacksonville economy was moderately worse or the same as six months earlier. One in 10 said it was substantially worse.

• Respondents were split about their own industries. A third said it was moderately better and almost another third said it was moderately worse. Almost 3 percent claimed it was substantially better.

• The majority expected the Jacksonville economy to do the same or moderately better in the next six months. Almost half said it would remain the same, but more than 40 percent said it would be better. Yet one in 10 said it would be moderately worse.

• The majority also expected their industries to be moderately better or the same in six months.

• Most didn’t plan to add jobs. Almost two-thirds didn’t anticipate increasing staff, although 10 percent already were adding jobs.

• The majority of respondents did not meet their fourth-quarter expectations for profitability, revenues, capital investments or jobs.

• Their biggest challenges were financing new business opportunities and managing cash flow. None said that managing health care for employees was most challenging.

Economic trends and expectations Businesses surveyed in March/April

Describe the current Jacksonville economy

• Below average 69.2 percent

• Poor 23.1 percent

• Average 7.7 percent

• Excellent or above average None

Describe the current national economy

• Below average 55.3 percent

• Poor 39.5 percent

• Average 5.3 percent

Compare the current Jacksonville economy to six months ago

• Moderately worse 38.5 percent

• The same 35.9 percent

• Moderately better 15.4 percent

• Substantially worse 10.3 percent

Compare your current industry conditions to six months earlier

• Moderately better 33.3 percent

• Moderately worse 30.8 percent

• The same 17.9 percent

• Substantially worse 15.4 percent

• Substantially better 2.6 percent

Expectations for the Jacksonville economy in six months

• The same 46.2 percent

• Moderately better 43.6 percent

• Moderately worse 10.3 percent

Expectations for your industry in six months

• Moderately better 46.2 percent

• The same 38.5 percent

• Moderately worse 10.3 percent

• Substantially better 5.1 percent

How much your business must grow before adding jobs

• Don’t plan to add staff 64.1 percent

• More than 10 percent 17.9 percent

• Adding staff now 10.3 percent

• Must grow 5 to 10 percent 7.7 percent

Did you meet fourth-quarter 2009 expectations?

• Profitability No 76.9 percent Yes 23.1 percent

• Revenue No 69.2 percent Yes 30.8 percent

• Capital investments No 64.9 percent Yes 35.1 percent

• Number of jobs No 56.4 percent Yes 43.6 percent

The most challenging aspect of running your business

Managing cash flow 28.9 percent

Financing new business opportunities 28.9 percent

Cost management 21.1 percent

Managing long-term growth 10.5 percent

Staying ahead of competitors 5.3 percent

Determining where to invest company

resources 2.6 percent

Managing accounting and bookkeeping

practices 2.6 percent

Managing health care for employees 0 percent

Source: Spring/Summer 2010 Trends and Expectations Survey of Small Business Performance in North Florida by CenterBank of Jacksonville and the University of North Florida Coggin College of Business

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