Small businesses give mixed economic scorecard

Small business owners are split on the state of the economy, according to the 2013 U.S. Bank Small Business Annual Survey.

The survey polled 3,210 small businesses in U.S. Bank’s 25-state small business banking footprint that had $10 million or less in annual revenue in the first quarter of 2013.

About 45 percent of respondents felt the economy was in recovery, while 43 percent thought it was in a recession. Only 1 percent believed it to be expanding, while 10 percent were unsure what the economy is doing.

In Wisconsin, 47 percent of respondents thought the national economy was expanding and 43 percent believed it to be contracting.

Overall, small business owners cited the federal budget deficit as the top national issue affecting them this year. Unemployment, healthcare and taxes were also among top concerns. Wisconsin had the same result.

“These results are very consistent with what we’re hearing in the field,” said John Elmore, vice chairman of community banking and branch delivery at U.S. Bank. “Last year, 70 percent of our respondents said they believed the economy was in recession, so even though we asked the question a little differently this year, it’s clear that small business owners feel a little better about current economic conditions than they did in 2012. However, uncertainty about the federal budget, unemployment and taxes are clearly a concern. If those variables improve, I believe we have a small business sector that is ready to soar.”

About 23 percent of Wisconsin respondents expect to increase their staff in the next 12 months, higher than the national average of 16 percent.

And 32 percent of Wisconsin small business owners reported higher revenue this year than last year. About 47 percent expect higher revenue next year.

Wisconsin small business owners cited economic uncertainty as the most important business challenge they face. Poor sales and government regulations were also concerns.

But 64 percent say their financial health is at least “good” and 29 percent were likely to make capital expenditures in the next year.

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