Central Plains Satelite

Optimism, Concerns Shown In Business Climate Survey

January 23, 2009 by lmorgan 

Members of the Antelope County Resource Center Board of Directors were treated to a preview of a yet-to-be released report outlining the business climate here in Antelope County.

Jenne Garvey Rodriguez, representing the Nebraska Department of Economic Development (NDED), presented the preliminary findings.

Back in August, NDED conducted a Nebraska Business Visitation Survey in Antelope County with assistance from local economic development interests and other state-level economic developers. Among the principal results of those interviews were:

• A total of 34 businesses participated in the survey. Of that number, 10 were located in Neligh, seven in Elgin.

• Seventy-one percent of the respondent businesses were corporations. The survey included one cooperative and one government institution.

• The respondents were scattered across a dozen industries with retail and ag-related the most common.

• Respondents reported almost 1,000 employees of whom about 35 percent were seasonal or part-time.

• Over two-thirds of respondents offered employee benefits, such as paid vacation, health insurance, etc.

• The overall weighted average wage was $10.85 per hour with the retail sector averaging $6.23, for finance it was $11.33, and in agriculture, $9.09.

• Respondents reported that they planned to expand office space, manufacturing space, and warehousing. Almost a third of the respondents also reported capital investment plans.

About a third of the respondents reported they expected to increase employment during the coming year. Most planned to increase employment by one or two employees. Overall, eight respondents expected to increase employment by 12 persons. Sixteen percent of the businesses surveyed reported they had had a job open for three months or longer. The specific positions reportedly open were skilled positions — auto body, mechanic, loan officer, truck driver, etc.

Business Climate

Rodriguez said businesses surveyed were asked to rate a number of business climate factors. Local utility and public services ranked at the top of the list. The top-rated factor in Antelope County was electrical service followed by fire protection. K-12 education ranked number three on the rating list. At the bottom of the list? Housing availability for rent, real property tax, labor availability, rail service, air-freight and air-passenger service.

Antelope County businesses were then compared with over 500 businesses that were surveyed in the state in 2007. County businesses seemed to have minor differences with the overall 2007 business climates survey results. The most significant difference was in the response to cell phones where county businesses gave only a ‘fair’ satisfaction rating. On the other hand, they rated the majority of the factors in public services, government and labor categories more positively than the 2007 respondents.

Advantages of Doing Business

County survey participants noted the three top advantages for doing business here as being quality of life, cost of living and labor cost. When questioned about the top disadvantages, businesses responded with labor availability, taxes and job opportunity.

Twelve of the 33 survey respondents said they planned to make capital investments in the near future to the tune of more than $2.5 million. Most capital investments planned involved the purchase of computers, software, vehicles, machinery, etc.

Recommendations

Rodriguez said local businesses face the same challenges as others across the state —declining populations, declining worker availability, inadequate communications infrastructure, lack of available housing. She said there are several options available for promoting available jobs through websites. Construction of rental housing was seen as a way to help attract job seekers.

The final report will be released later this year.

Following Rodriguez’s presentation, the ARC board held their regular monthly meeting.

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