Survey: Region’s economy ‘bouncing along the bottom’ |

Survey: Region’s economy ‘bouncing along the bottom’

by Brian Duggan

A majority of business leaders surveyed in the region still say the economy is poor with about 44 percent of them using terms like “bleak,” “struggling” and “getting worse” to describe the situation.

The findings came from the Sierra Region Economic Outlook Mid-Year Business Survey. The poll has surveyed business owners, CEOs and managers in the region since 2004. The mid-year report attracted 689 respondents.

Brian Bonnenfant, the project manager at the Center for Regional Studies at the University of Nevada, Reno, which conducts the survey with polling firm InfoSearch International, said he wanted to check the pulse of the economy before the winter doldrums, but the results weren’t much better than the 2009 report conducted last January.

“I would say flat, that’s pretty much the overall symptoms of the attitudes,” Bonnenfant said. “It’s just bouncing along the bottom.”

The Economic Outlook Index, which measures market conditions, revenue growth and other indicators, fell to 62.2 for the mid-year report, down from 62.8. It was 45.7 in 2008, the survey’s lowest score.

Bonnenfant said the most pessimistic industry was construction while some of the more optimistic answers came from the health and human services, retail and manufacturing industries.

Nearly two-thirds of respondents said the regional economy still was poor, 18 percent calling it “very poor.” Meanwhile, 14 percent said economic conditions had improved since 2009, up from 9 percent in the 2009 year-end survey.

About half said the economic conditions would remain the same over the next year while 29 percent said it would worsen and 23 percent saying they expected an improvement. Also, 60 percent said the number of people employed by their firm would remain the same over the next year while only 18 percent said it would increase and 23 percent saying the number would fall.

Despite the overall negative perception expressed by many in the report, there were signs of optimism.

Half of the respondents said their business was considering expanding or adding another product or market in the next six to 12 months while about a third said they were facing another contraction in the same period – 23 percent considering downsizing and 6 percent considering going out of business.

About 100 of the respondents are members of the Northern Nevada Development Authority. Executive Director Rob Hooper said about 70 percent of the NNDA members surveyed said the economy was either flat or improving.

As for the overall results of the survey, Hooper said, “People have lost hope, and that’s a very dangerous thing for us. We need to regain our hope. We do have good things happening. We’re more diversified in the Sierra Region than any other part of Nevada.”

He said three companies are coming to the region this week to look at buildings.

With the state legislative session about six months away where lawmakers may face a $3 billion budget gap, 78 percent of those polled said they would support some sort of change to Nevada’s tax structure.

While a third said they want a reduction in taxes to mirror a reduction in state spending, about 28 percent want lawmakers to expand the sales tax and another 28 percent say they want the state to increase taxes on the mining industry. Less than 7 percent said they want a corporate or personal income tax in Nevada.

The $787 billion federal stimulus package has either directly or indirectly benefited 29 percent of those polled, up from 21 percent last year.

As for immigration reform, nearly 58 percent supported a “structured path to citizenship” for those in the country illegally who are employed and have no criminal record while 28 percent of those polled say they want illegal immigrants deported to their country of origin.

About half of the respondents said they were either a business owner, 26 percent, or a CEO or president, 21 percent. About half of the firms polled had five to 99 employees and 15 percent had 100 or more. Nearly 70 percent are from Washoe County and 12.4 percent from Carson City.