published on February 17, 2017 - 3:10 PM
Written by The Business Journal Staff
The majority of California small business owners are optimistic about the where the U.S. economy is going, and that seems particularly true in Fresno County.


That’s the conclusion of the latest Union Bank Small Business Economic survey released this week.

Researchers who polled 693 small businesses across California, Oregon and Washington report that 56 percent of the people polled at Fresno County businesses believe that the national economy was headed in the right direction, a higher rate than the 53 percent of the people polled in all three states who offered the same opinion.

Half of Fresno County small business operators also stated that they believe the U.S. was headed in the right direction, compared to 38 percent among all the West Coast businesses polled.

Fifty-six percent of the county’s business people said they had confidence in the local economy, and 90 percent said they were confident in their own businesses, according to the annual survey — the 18th that Union Bank has conducted.

It is very encouraging to see that business owners in Fresno hold a positive view of the national economy, as well as the local economy and their own businesses,” Union Bank Managing Director Todd Hollander, head of business banking, said in a written statement. “This confidence is essential if further job growth and expansion is to occur.”

The majority (591) of the businesses contacted for the poll — conducted between Dec. 12, 2016 and Jan. 3 — were in California, while the other 102 were in Oregon and Washington.

Among the survey’s other findings was that 60 percent of Fresno County’s small business owners indicated they were optimistic about the national business climate in the future, a significantly higher ratio than the 41 percent of the people polled in all three states who expressed the same optimism.

“However, 20 percent of individuals operating a small business in Fresno expect the business climate to worsen,” Union Bank reports.

Here are some of the survey’s other findings:

– Sixty percent of small business owners in Fresno County hired new employees in 2016, more than double the hiring ratio across the West Coast, 28 percent.

– Nearly one-third of the county’s small business owners indicate they plan to increase staffing in 2017, while half said they plan to keep their personnel numbers in line with last year.

– Fifty percent of small business owners in Fresno reported sales increases in 2016, much higher than the three-state average of 32 percent.

– Referrals from existing clients remain the most common means of generating new business among Fresno small businesses, though that is on the decline.

– Nearly one-third of Fresno County’s small business owners said they will increase capital expenditures in 2017, while half are looking to keep them comparable to last year.

– Six in 10 small business owners said their health care costs have somewhat or greatly risen as a result of the Affordable Care Act, but it hasn’t affected employment.

– Across the West Coast, 23 percent of the local respondents noted they were either “extremely concerned” or “very concerned” about planned or proposed changes to their states’ minimum wage, compared to 20 percent of Fresno’s small business owners expressing similar concerns.

– In response to questions about equal pay, 80 percent of Fresno County’s small business owners said the issue is a low priority, and they haven’t made any conscious efforts to address it.

– Half of the Fresno small business owners said they’re working more hours in early 2017 than they did over the same period last year.

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