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Survey: Upstate business leaders pessimistic, but don’t expect recession

Survey: Upstate business leaders pessimistic, but don’t expect recession

Costly state regulations, lack of trained workers cited
Survey: Upstate business leaders pessimistic, but don’t expect recession
Photographer: Adobe Stock

SCHENECTADY — A new survey of upstate business leaders reveals a mixed bag. 

CEOs in upstate New York are more pessimistic than they were last year, according to a newly released survey. 

But overall they don’t expect a recession. 

Siena College surveyed 667 business leaders from companies across upstate cities as part of the annual Upstate New York Business Leader Survey.

Just 17 percent of CEOs said current business conditions in New York are better than they were a year ago, a decline from 26 percent last year, while 36 percent said conditions have worsened, up from 27 percent. 

Confidence has dropped because CEOs have a less positive assessment of current conditions as well as growing concerns about the future, said Siena College Research Institute Director Don Levy.

“While few see a recession on the immediate horizon and well over half predict that their business will continue to be in business 10 years from today, many are concerned about headwinds, including governmental regulation, healthcare costs and workforce suitability,” Levy said. 

Respondents also expressed discontent with workforce development. 

Fifty-nine percent of business leaders rated their local area as “fair or poor” on workforce suitability.

Just 21 percent of CEOs, down from 51 percent in 2013, say that there is an ample supply of local workers that are appropriately trained.

Respondents painted a particularly dismal view of state government, citing the state’s recent Paid Family Leave and minimum wage increases as legislation that has hurt their businesses. 

Only 6 percent said the state is doing an “excellent or good” job of creating a business climate in which companies like theirs will succeed and only 13 percent are “somewhat or very confident” in the ability of the state government to improve the business climate.

Fifty-four percent of business leaders expect legislation to eventually reach zero carbon emissions and reduce greenhouse gas levels will have a further adverse effect, according to the survey. 

Majorities of CEOs continue to call for spending cuts, business income tax reform and personal income tax reform.

But business leaders didn’t give the federal government a pass, either.

While CEOs have more confidence in the efforts of Washington to improve business conditions, those who gave the federal government a grade of “good or excellent” on creating a positive business climate plummeted 12 points to 39 percent this year. 

Forty-seven percent said that the federal tax reform has had a positive impact.

But respondents were not asked about major global economic shifts, including tariffs, the U.S. trade war with China and the United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement, which was signed by President Donald Trump last week. 

Sixteen percent, however, cited U.S. trade agreements when asked to identify which challenges are causing concern, and 66 percent, healthcare costs. 

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