County survey paints optimistic picture

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County survey paints optimistic picture

By Ginny Lee

The fall 2014 Sangamon County Economic Outlook Survey, published twice a year by the University of Illinois at Springfield’s Survey Research Office, revealed several surprising results. The Survey Research Office, headed by Director Ashley E. Kirzinger, is part of the UIS Center for State Policy and Leadership.

The study is funded by the University of Illinois at Springfield and the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce. It is based on 207 responses from businesses and nonprofit organizations.

Overall, local employers had positive expectations for their own businesses, their sectors of business and Sangamon County. These positive expectations had increased 6 points since the spring 2014 survey and 22 points since the fall 2012 survey.

Kirzinger expressed surprise that contributions to nonprofit organizations have failed to bounce back since the recession of 2008. Respondents from public, nonprofit and private sectors reported decreases in projected contributions.

“Results were overwhelmingly negative in this area,” Kirzinger said. “There has been guarded optimism about the economy, and things are now trending more positively, but we are in a long-term recovery.” This segment of the survey is the only area that had not rebounded since the recession.

Three-fourths of employers in the survey reported that that the Illinois State Fair had “no economic impact” on their businesses and organizations. Similarly, 58.8 percent of respondents in the accommodations/food/entertainment/recreation area reported that the Illinois State Fair had no economic impact on their businesses. Fourteen percent of respondents estimated an economic impact of less than $15,000 on their business or organization. However, 7.4 percent of employers reported an economic impact of more than $15,000 from the Illinois State Fair.

The survey showed that “health care facilities and quality” is the greatest asset for doing business in Sangamon County, followed by “proximity to colleges/universities/technical schools.”

The greatest liability for doing business in Sangamon County was “total state taxes on business,” followed by “workers compensation,” “state business climate,” “total local taxes on business” and “state permits and regulations.”

A steering committee of a Chamber member, a community member, a UIS economics faculty member and a Public Administration faculty member created the survey questions. The survey began in 2008. Jennifer Carter is Research Manager for the survey.

More than 60 UIS students and 20 community members collected data by phone and through mail from area businesses and organizations, according to Kirzinger. “It’s important for students to learn how to communicate professionally and conduct objective research,” she said.

Kirzinger, who has a Ph.D. degree in Media and Public Affairs from Louisiana State University where she worked in similar positions, is confident that people use the survey. “People talk about it a lot,” she says.

The survey can be found online at www.uis.edu/surveyresearchoffice/projects/. Paper copies are available in the Survey Research Office at UIS. Call 217-206-7956.

Ginny Lee is a regular contributor to the Springfield Business Journal as a writer and photographer.

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