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Poll: Growth barriers in NM

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This is a May 2013 aerial view of Downtown Albuquerque, home to many New Mexico businesses. (Journal File)

This is a May 2013 aerial view of Downtown Albuquerque, home to many New Mexico businesses. (Journal File)

Copyright © 2014 Albuquerque Journal

SANDEROFF: Conducted survey of hundreds of companies

SANDEROFF: Conducted survey of hundreds of companies

COLE: Chamber of Commerce president

COLE: Chamber of Commerce president

A weak economy and the lack of a skilled local labor force are the biggest obstacles facing businesses in New Mexico, according to a new poll conducted by Research and Polling Inc. for the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce.

And nearly 6 in 10 of the 252 companies polled last month said federal budget cuts last year hurt their businesses.

Those were among the key findings of the Business Climate Survey, which was based on telephone interviews with 252 businesses conducted Jan. 22-24. The poll has a margin of error of 6.2 percent.

“The big picture is New Mexico’s businesses are not nearly out of the woods yet as it relates to their feelings toward the strength of the New Mexico economy,” Brian Sanderoff, president of the Albuquerque polling firm, told the

Journal on Tuesday.

“New Mexico businesses are still sluggish at best and have not broken out to begin the process of expanding and growing our employment and growing our economy.”

In the survey, only 23 percent of the businesses polled rated the New Mexico economy as excellent or good, while 29 percent described it as poor or very poor. Forty-seven percent said it was fair.

And while 60 percent of those surveyed characterized the economic strength of their business as excellent or good, less than a third (27 percent) said they planned to boost the number of employees in 2014.

“I think New Mexico business owners are extremely concerned about the state of the economy … Some are optimistic for the future but not much,” Sanderoff said.

Terri Cole, the chamber’s president and CEO, said this is the first time her organization has commissioned such a poll and that it specifically was timed to provide information from the business community to the governor and Legislature during the current session.

Cole said she wasn’t surprised so many businesses were hurt by the federal budget cuts last year, but that only goes to reinforce the chamber’s agenda this year to “accelerate growth in the private sector.”

“Reinforcing that policy is badly needed,” she said, “and legislation during this session that helps to do that is incredibly important.”

Among the poll’s key findings:

  • The biggest obstacles or challenges facing New Mexico were a weak economy/slow economic growth (26 percent) and a lack of skilled available local labor (15 percent). State government regulations (11 percent) and not enough business or customers (11 percent) tied for third.
  • A majority of businesses said they were hurt either a lot (23 percent) or a little (36 percent) by federal budget cuts in the past year. Thirty-six percent said it had no impact.
  • In 2013, more businesses decreased (23 percent) than increased (19 percent) their number of employees. For this year, 27 percent said they planned to increase the size of their workforce, while only 3 percent said they intended to decrease it.
  • Barely half (52 percent) of the companies surveyed offer health insurance to their workers. Of those that do, about a third (32 percent) raised the amount employees had to contribute toward the rising costs of their health plans last year.
  • Fifty-three percent of the workers employed by these companies received a pay raise last year, averaging 2.5 percent.

The full report is available on the chamber’s website, abqchamber.com.

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