Statewide Survey Paints Gloomy Picture Among Pennsylvania Business Owners and CEOs

May 1, 2012

A new survey finds 30% of business owners in Pennsylvania feel economic conditions in the state have worsened over the last year; 17% said conditions were better. That was one of the findings of the Spring 2012 Keystone Business Climate Survey conducted by the Lincoln Institute of Public Opinion Research, a conservative think tank.

"There's another 51% who said it's been the same, but that's not good news either, because over the last couple of years the employers in Pennsylvania have told us that the economy in Pennsylvania has been historically bad," said Lowman Henry, chairman and CEO of the Lincoln Institute.

Looking ahead, 16% of business owners and CEOs surveyed said they expect the state's business climate to improve, while 26% expect it to get worse. That's a shift from a year ago, when 38% forecast improving business conditions. But, Henry said a mix of federal and state policies have worn down business leaders.

"The problem in Pennsylvania persists in that Pennsylvania remains among the most heavily taxed states in the country when it comes to taxing businesses," he said. "We have duplicate taxes, we have higher percentage taxes, so Pennsylvania has historically not been a good state in which to do business, relative to other states."

Still, the survey found that's not driving businesses away. Less than 1% of those surveyed said they have moved from the commonwealth and less than 1% said they've moved any of their operations out of state. Still, 4% said they are considering moving operations elsewhere.

When Governor Tom Corbett took office and Republicans gained control of the general assembly two years ago, business outlook improved, but the Keystone Survey found that optimism was short-lived.

"Basically, what the employers are saying is they don't really have confidence in either party or anyone at the moment to get the economy back on track," said Henry.

That could translate to fewer jobs for Pennsylvanians.

"Over the past six months, 20% of the businesses we surveyed have reduced the number of employees at their business, while only 14% have increased the number of employees at their business, and this is bad because we're already at a low ebb when it comes to employment," said Henry.

The Spring 2012 Keystone Business Climate Survey was conducted electronically from April 20 through April 24. 324 business owners, CEOs, CFOs, state and/or local managers participated.