Spokane Journal of Business

Executive optimism here edges up slightly

Quarterly poll suggests sentiment that Spokane still lags rest of the nation

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In a quarterly survey conducted earlier this month, Spokane business owners and managers voiced slightly greater confidence in the economy than they have all year, but suggested that they continued to believe Spokanes economy was slipping farther behind the nations.


The survey, conducted for the Journal of Business, polled 200 business owners and managers here about their level of confidence in Spokanes economy. It was the fourth sampling in a quarterly look that the Journal is taking at business confidence here.


As was the case in the three earlier polls this year, when respondents were asked to look ahead to the coming year, they predicted that the economies both here and nationally would improve, and that Spokanes economy would outpace that of the rest of the nation in that time. However, they believed at the time they were polled that Spokane was worse off than the rest of the nationa sentiment that appeared to become more prevalent this summer and apparently hasnt subsided.


To be sure, there are no significant shifts in the survey numbers in this most recent poll, and its too early to say whether the modest changes reflect a trend, says Bill Robinson, president of Robinson Research Inc., the independent Spokane market-research company that conducts the poll.


When I look at these numbers, I see steady as she goes, Robinson says.


Still, this months poll resultshowever modest in their gainsshow the greatest overall optimism of the year. The average confidence index for the seven questions in the survey was 118.4, compared with 115.4 in August, 116.1 in May, and 116.7 in February.


The Journal uses a confidence index to simplify tracking of the data over time. The index mathematically compares positive responses to negative ones in such a manner that an index of 100 would mean that equal percentages of respondents are optimistic vs. pessimistic.


Here are the numbers from this months poll.


When asked whether they thought Spokanes economy currently is better, worse, or about the same as the national economy, 17 percent of respondents said it was better, 25 percent felt it was worse, and 52 percent believed it was about the same. That results in an index of 92, exactly the same as in the August poll.


When asked to look to the year ahead and predict whether Spokanes economy will be better, worse, or about the same as the national economy, 31 percent said it would be better, 11 percent said it would be worse, and 53 percent said it would be about the same. That equates to a confidence index of 120, an improvement over the 115 mark last quarter.


When asked to predict the U.S. economys prospects for the coming year, 27 percent of respondents said it would be better, 11 percent said it would be worse, and 57 percent felt it would be about the same. The index of 116 also was an improvement over last quarters 110.


When asked how their own businesses are faring compared with a year ago, 52 percent of respondents said their businesses are financially better off now, 16 percent felt their businesses are worse off today, and 30 percent believed their ventures are about the same financially as they were a year ago.


The confidence index for the question is 136, markedly better than the 127 found in the last poll but more in line with the levels found in the first two surveys this year.


When asked if they plan to increase staff, reduce staff, or keep their work force about the same, a strong 35 percent of respondentsthe highest so far this yearsaid they plan to increase staff, 4 percent said they plan to reduce staff, and 60 percent said they expect to maintain current staffing levels.


The confidence index is 131, which is about the same as last quarter, since that previous poll reflected a slightly smaller percentage of respondents who expected staff reductions.


When asked about their advertising plans, which Robinson says generally provide a good indicator of economic confidence, 25 percent said they planned to spend more on advertising in the coming year, 7 percent expected to spend less, and 67 percent predicted equivalent spending. The resulting index of 118 is up slightly from the last polls 116.


When asked whether their businesses would need more building space in the coming year, 19 percent said yes, while 78 percent expected to need the same amount of space as now. Only 3 percent believed theyd need less space. The confidence index of 116 is unchanged from last quarters poll. When questioned further about their expansion plans 7 percent of the overall 200 businesspeople polled said they expect their business to expand at its current location, while 8 percent expected to move to a different facility, and 4 percent expected to build new quarters.


The survey results are deemed accurate within a range of plus or minus 6.9 perc

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