Business Climate Survey yields favorable results for Chesterfield County
2008 Business Survey Executive Summary
2008 Business Survey Results
Businesses in Chesterfield County overall are satisfied with the county’s current business climate, according to results of the 2008 Business Climate Survey.
Respondents gave the county an 86.6 percent favorable rating on the biennial survey, which serves as a measure of the county’s current business climate. Respondents ranked utilities, telecommunications, accessibility to markets, public schools and higher education as the top five county strengths that contribute to a healthy business environment.
The Business Climate Survey was designed by Chesterfield Economic Development and senior county leaders, with input from the county’s Economic Development Advisory Committee and the Chesterfield County Chamber of Commerce. It complements the annual Business First Chesterfield outreach program, in which county staff and a team of volunteers conduct face-to-face interviews with approximately 100 businesses.
The survey consisted of 20 business-related questions and 11 demographic questions. In July 2008, it was mailed to 5,000 randomly selected businesses throughout Chesterfield County. The National Survey Research Center in Boulder, Colo., received 449 completed surveys, for a 10 percent return rate.
Maintaining a favorable business climate is critical to the county’s economic health, and keeping existing businesses healthy is key to continuing new investment in the county. Historically, more than 70 percent of the capital investment and more than 50 percent of the job creation in Chesterfield County come from the county’s existing businesses. In 2006, existing companies generated 80 percent of the new capital investment.
“Everyone wins when local businesses are successful. That’s why outreach programs like the Business Climate Survey and Business First Chesterfield are critical to helping us maintain the kind of business climate that supports that success,” said Will Davis, director of Chesterfield Economic Development.
The demographic questions were designed to help understand who the respondents were. Small businesses accounted for the bulk of the responses, with 93 percent having fewer than 20 employees. The top five business classifications responding to the survey were professional, scientific or technical services, retail trade, construction, wholesale trade, and health care and social services. Sole proprietors and privately held corporations accounted for 74 percent of the respondents, and 95 percent of businesses were locally owned. Eighty-three percent of the respondents have been in operation more than three years.
Overall, businesses responded that they were satisfied with the current business climate in the county by providing an 86.6 percent favorable rating. The change in response over the three survey cycles (2004, 2006 and 2008) is within a 5 percent variation making the difference insignificant.
Work-force needs remain an issue with county businesses. The work-force index, an average of seven employee-related issues, reveals a 56 percent favorable rating, which is consistent with feedback from the Business First Chesterfield outreach, and continues to pose unique challenges for businesses in the county.
Businesses are concerned about the availability and affordability of work-force housing and recreational and cultural opportunities for their workers.
When asked about potential areas for business growth in the county, the top five responses were life science/medical, restaurants, business/ professional services, information technology and retail/personal services.
The survey revealed that Chesterfield County is making significant gains in its approval rating for county processes and interaction with county departments. Coordination between businesses and the county has gone from a favorable rating of 45 percent in 2004 to 64 percent in 2008. Businesses were pleased with the process of obtaining a business license in the county, with an 84 percent favorable rating. Overall, favorable ratings of the processes for planning, zoning and permitting have increased consistently over the three survey cycles, with all categories now receiving favorable ratings of at least an 8-10 percent increase over 2004 ratings.
County businesses generally feel that their share of the cost of public services is sufficient, with only 21 percent having responded that it is too high. This is further evidenced by the business community’s support for county initiatives such as the funding of an interchange for Meadowville Technology Park and funding of the Business Expansion Incentive Fund with excess business, professional and occupational licensing, or BPOL, taxes.
Overall, businesses believe the county’s efforts in code enforcement are adequate. Regulatory matters including building/fire codes, building inspections, environmental regulations, zoning/signage, zoning landscape and restaurant inspections all received increased favorable ratings over the previous two survey cycles.
The 2008 Business Climate Survey revealed that local businesses recognize that the county is improving its processes, improving communications with businesses and providing quality services. Businesses, however, continue to face work-force issues and are concerned with the general cost of doing business.
The county appreciates businesses taking time to participate in outreach efforts such as the Business First Chesterfield program and the Business Climate Survey, and providing valuable feedback that helps Chesterfield County strive to meet its mission of “Providing a FIRST CHOICE community through excellence in public service.” For more information about doing business in Chesterfield County, visit www.chesterfieldbusiness.com.
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