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Small Business Week: What do business owners see on the horizon?

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As they celebrate Small Business Week along with peers around the country, a majority of small-business owners in Central Pennsylvania are anticipating growth in their cash flow over the next six months, according to responses submitted in the first edition of the CPBJ Small Business Activity Index.

The index is a quarterly measure of conditions and expectations for Central Pennsylvania’s small-business community. It serves as a snapshot of confidence and an indicator of the local economy’s future direction.

Of those surveyed, 64.2 percent predict their cash flow to improve, while 27.6 percent believe it will stay the same and 8.1 percent think it will become worse.

When asked what the biggest challenges and opportunities they expect to see over the next six months are, respondents said:

  • "Staffing, pay and benefits. Online shopping continues to erode our retail sales, making it a challenge to maintain staff and wages."
  • "Adding properly skilled staff is a challenge; expanding international sales is an opportunity."
  • "Opportunity is everywhere. Our bottleneck is the limited pool of knowledge workers."
  • "Biggest challenge is finding and paying employees. Biggest opportunity is expansion due to business closures."
  • "Challenges: Navigating the changes enacted by the Trump administration and ensuring that any unintended consequences are mitigated. Opportunities: Trump has promised to be business-friendly, and I think that the economy has taken that message to heart. A pro-business administration is good for business, at least in the short-term."

Responses were collected between March 13 and March 24 from representatives of 130 small businesses. Nearly two thirds, or about 64.8 percent, had less than 25 employees. A fifth, or 20.8 percent, had between 25 and 49 workers. The remainder had between 50 and 100 employees.

Cumberland County accounted for nearly a third of the responses, at 30.4 percent, followed by Lancaster County at 28.8 percent. Dauphin County made up 17.6 percent, York was 16.8 percent and "other" was 6.4 percent.

Industries represented in the survey include professional services (26.2 percent), construction (9.5 percent), manufacturing (8.7 percent), finance (8 percent) and technology (7.1 percent). Real estate firms made up 5.6 percent of total respondents, with 22.2 percent citing “other.”

See all of the survey results in the slideshow below.

The next survey will take place in June, with results to be published in July. If you are interested in taking part, email lists@cpbj.com.

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Write to the Editorial Department at editorial@cpbj.com

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