As 2010 comes to an end, there seems to be no joy in Mudville. In our online survey of readers this month, the mood is considerably dark. We asked readers what signs they were seeing that the economy is improving and almost half of the 808 respondents said, “None, the economy still stinks.”
Business confidence in the state has steadily declined since we started tracking it in 2004. In August 2005, 45% of readers thought things were going in the right direction, and that has slid to only 21% this month.
That mirrors what is happening nationally. According to an October survey of small-business owners from Discover Financial Services, only 28% expect business to get better in the next six months; 46% plan to decrease spending; and 61% rate the economy as poor. On the job front, 78% said they have no plans to hire.
In our survey, jobs and hiring is just as weak. In May 2004, 38% of respondents anticipated hiring. Now, only 26% say they will be hiring. Some small shred of good news is that only 17% anticipated eliminating more jobs over the next year.
Business confidence is key to any recovery, so these results are disheartening and ominous. Of course, they don’t reflect the attitudes of every business in the state. The tech sector is strong, with Intel, for example, showing enormous confidence in the economy and in Oregon when it announced recently that it would invest billions to build a new fab plant in Hillsboro (see Dealwatch). And our cover story features how even in a downturn those savvy enough (and possessing some cash) can find some sweet deals in technology, real estate and acquisitions.
But the gloom cannot be easily dismissed. The Oregon Business Council’s leadership summit returns this year after last year’s event was canceled in the face of a growing rift between business and political leaders, but OBC president Duncan Wyse sees a long road ahead. “This summit feels to me a lot like the first one,” Wyse says in our story. “We have a new governor and we are still, as we were then, in a very deep hole that we’ve got to find our way out of.”
I’m glad we’re putting 2010 to rest. I know I’m not the only one looking forward to a new and hopefully better year. We’re going to start it off with a bang. Oregon Business turns 30 in January and we’ll take the opportunity to look back at 30 years of business in the state and to also look forward by asking 30 of its leaders to tell us what the next 30 years will bring. Sometimes all you need is a little perspective to realize that despite rough times, we’re all pretty darn resilient.