Updated January 29 at 9:29pm
small business

Southeastern Mass. business leaders cautiously optimistic

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DARTMOUTH – Business leaders in southeastern Massachusetts are expressing “cautious optimism” about the region’s economic outlook, the Patriot Ledger reported on Thursday.

According to a survey by the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth’s Center for Policy Analysis, half of the executives expect their payrolls to stay the same over the next 12 months while 38 percent expect to add jobs; 8 percent will decrease their staff.

When asked about business conditions, about 55 percent said they expect them to stay the same a year from now; 33 percent are more optimistic, expecting improvements, while 9 percent are pessimistic.

“This has been the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression,” said Clyde Barrow, the report’s lead author, according to the Patriot Ledger. “It’s only to be expected that it’s going to be a slow crawl out of that economic situation.”

“I think we can definitely see the region’s unemployment rate come down at an accelerated rate compared to what we’ve seen over the past year,” said Barrow noting that more job opportunities should be arising in the near future.

Health care costs and taxes is the public policy issue with the most direct impact on their businesses, executives said.

On the other hand, obtaining a loan was not a problem in 2010, according to the survey. More than 90 percent of respondent whose companies borrowed or access credit during the past year where able to “satisfy their credit needs.”

Other results from the survey included: 63 percent said the region’s commuter rail service was either “good” or “excellent;” 61 percent supported the extension of the commuter rail to New Bedford and Fall River; 55 percent said the redevelopment of the former South Weymouth Naval Air Station would have a positive impact on the region’s economy; 79 percent said the area’s hospitals were either “good” or “excellent;” and 65 percent said a resort casino in the area would boost the local economy.

The survey was conducted in late 2010 by mail and email, and commissioned by South Boston-based law firm Nutter McClennen & Fish; more than 160 executives at companies with at least 100 employees and leaders at local chambers of commerce participated.

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