NHDP - Survey Finds Small NH Businesses are Optimistic About Future

New survey suggests the New Hampshire economy is rebounding, and shows 70% of business owners are likely to expand

Concord - A survey of New Hampshire business owners shows confidence that the economy is recovering both nationally and here in the Granite State. The survey included responses from 140 New Hampshire businesses, 85% of which were small businesses.

Three quarters of New Hampshire business owners said they are expecting to stay where they are or grow in 2010, and more than 70% said they are likely to expand in 2010 or 2011.

The positive outlook on the New Hampshire economy held by businesses mirrors the results of a UNH poll taken earlier this month.  The poll showed Granite Staters are growing much more optimistic about the economy as a whole and their financial situation in particular.  Nearly 40% of New Hampshire residents said they think local businesses will enjoy "good times" over the next 12 months, a 26 point increase in just over a year, and the highest level of optimism about the economy since the recession began in 2007.

The full article on the survey from today's Union Leader is below.

By Alec O'Meara

Three of four businesses in New Hampshire think they either will tread water or see growth in 2010, according to a new survey commissioned by Hampshire First Bank to take the economic temperature of southern New Hampshire.

The survey was the first in what Hampshire First hopes is a series of snapshots of the economic climate in the southern part of the state, said Hampshire First President and CEO Jim Dunphy, adding the results from the initial survey appear promising.

Hampshire First started in 2006 with a Nashua branch, and now has banking centers in Londonderry, Manchester, Portsmouth and Keene. Its stock trades on the OTC Bulletin Board under the symbol HFBN.

The survey suggests local consumers have confidence in a national economy that is beginning to show signs of recovery, John Romps, associate professor of economics and business at Saint Anselm College, said yesterday in an online news conference.

"The local economy has begun to pick up, the national economy has begun to pick up, and New Hampshire is positioned to do at least as well as the rest of the country," Romps said.

Approximately 140 businesses, 85 percent of which were categorized as small businesses with 100 or fewer employees, were surveyed. Roughly half had revenue of $1 million or less in 2009, and approximately 20 percent saw revenue of more than $10 million, giving a good cross section of business types in the region, Romps said.

"The Business First survey results provide an optimistic outlook of New Hampshire's economy, with results showing that a majority of businesses are likely to increase their capital expenditures in 2011," Dunphy said.

While large businesses nationwide have begun seeing some recovery, small businesses in New Hampshire have not seen the same rebound yet, Romps said. He said much of the growth big companies have seen  has come from gains in exports.

"In order for small businesses to grow it will have to be consumer driven, and there is evidence that consumers are beginning to get more confident," Romps said. "The most important thing for most small businesses is to move forward."

Local businesses appear to be doing that, Romps said. Fifty-four percent of those surveyed said they were likely or somewhat likely to expand in 2010, with more than 70 percent saying they were likely to expand in 2011, another indicator that business owners are optimistic, Romps said.

One in four businesses cut personnel to get through the recession, the survey showed.

Unemployment rates have begun to improve, however, and real estate values appear to have stabilized, giving people a greater idea of where they stand financially. As more people feel comfortable about their own situation, they will increase spending, which in turn will further fuel small businesses, Romps suggested.

"Now that the housing tax credit has passed, if they (home values) are not at the bottom, they are pretty close, and they are going to stay there," Romps said. "It should stabilize."