Survey: Business owners bullish on Chesco economy

Screen Shot 2016-05-17 at 3.23.04 PMWEST CHESTER — It appears that small business in Chester County is pretty bullish on the economic future of the county, based on a new survey released Tuesday by the county commissioners and a county economic development group.

The Chester County Board of Commissioners and the Chester County Economic Development Council (CCEDC), announced at Tuesday’s Commissioners’ Sunshine Meeting, the results of a comprehensive business survey entitled “Take the Pulse.”  The survey, developed in partnership with the county’s 10 chambers of commerce, is a key component of VISTA 2025, Chester County’s ten-year economic development strategy designed to maintain the economic health of the county by striking a balance between progress and preservation. 

“The Take the Pulse survey results have revealed the top opportunities and challenges that Chester County business owners are facing as we continue to bounce back from the nationwide recession,” said Chester County Commissioners’ Chair Terence Farrell. “The results give us valuable guidance on where to focus our energy as we work to ensure the future health of Chester County’s economy.”

 As they say in the real estate business, “location, location, location” — and the survey suggests that Chester County’s quality of life plays a big role in the positive attitude of local business owners.

“Take the Pulse survey results further validated one of the primary themes contained in the VISTA 2025 strategy – quality of place is paramount to the people of Chester County and critical to our continued ability to attract talent and businesses,” said CCEDC President & CEO Gary W. Smith. 

More than 400 individuals responded to the online, 20-question survey that was open to all businesses and designed to assess the business climate in Chester County. Key results from the Take the Pulse survey include: 

• More than 94 percent of respondents expect to see increased revenues in the next 12 months.

• Approximately 90 percent of respondents believe the business climate in Chester County is “stable” or “improving.”

• Most companies in Chester County are here because they were “started here” or because “the principal lives here.” 

• Survey respondents are highly optimistic about the future business climate in Chester County. More than eight in ten (82 percent) of business owners expect to maintain or grow their business over the next year.

• The overall “quality of place” in Chester County was rated as excellent in terms of its positive effect on the county as a place to do business. Community safety, community events and activities, recreational opportunities, community attitudes and quality of educational system were also rated as the most positive.

• The majority of survey respondents have a long-standing presence in Chester County, with nearly half (49 percent) operating in Chester County for 20 years or more. 

• While survey respondents are optimistic for the future, managing “new business growth” was most often cited as the primary challenge facing their businesses, followed by the ability to attract and retain a “qualified workforce.”

• The items rated as having the most negative effect were “public transportation” and “traffic congestion.”

And while the opinions are nice, county leaders plan to use the information gleaned as a tool for future planning.

“The data gathered will help influence the course of Chester County’s economic well-being over the next decade,”Commissioner Kathi Cozzone said. “These survey results, combined with the feedback we receive through our urban center forums, our workforce and education summit and workshops, and the work of our goal teams continue to provide valuable insight for our future economy.”

Still, officials note, it is gratifying to learn the value local business owners place on the quality of life the county offers.

“It is reassuring to find that Chester County business owners really value the quality of place that Chester County offers, and it’s not surprising to see that public transportation and traffic congestion have the most negative effect on businesses,” said Commissioner Michelle Kichline, who also co-chairs the VISTA 2025 initiative. “We will continue to identify the top transportation improvements that support economic development, and are working on ways to improve additional modes of transportation including rail, bike and pedestrian infrastructure.”

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