2015 in Business – A Look AheadFebruary 23, 2015
John A. Zinno, Jr., CPA
Looking ahead at 2015, Fairfield County businesses have a reason to continue to be cautiously optimistic. There are concrete signs that the progress made in 2014 seems poised to continue. This is borne out by the results of a statewide business survey late last year as well as information we have received from numerous clients. More businesses are growing, fewer are contracting, investments are being made in technology, and hiring is on the rise.
That said, there is plenty of work to be done. Companies still widely view the state as less friendly to businesses than it should be. Taxes remain high, as is the general cost of doing business in both Fairfield County and throughout Connecticut. An aging workforce continues to create concerns for our long-term success as well.
Forecasting the business climate for 2015, here is what we expect to see:
Continued Improvement – One of the most encouraging signs is the continued improvement of our economy from the dark recession days of five years ago. The burden placed on businesses during those difficult years seems to be easing, and the results are tangible. Automobile dealers are closing in on record sales. Hiring is up across the board, as are investments in research and development. Businesses are making investments in technology and are much more likely to expand than contract. These are all good signs.
Connecticut’s Workforce – A large segment of Connecticut’s workforce is approaching retirement age, which creates questions concerning the next generation of workers.
A recent survey showed that at least 25% of Connecticut’s businesses face substantial workforce retirements in the next five to ten years. Businesses will need to plan accordingly for these impending changes. With an aging workforce, there is a need for our state to continue to invest in training, educational and development programs to create an environment that retains and attracts new talent in Connecticut.
Transportation Takes Center Stage – It is refreshing that the state is making Fairfield County transportation a priority in 2015—including the idea of widening I-95 and improving and expanding existing rail systems. This is a critically important investment that can enhance Fairfield County’s business climate. There are few issues as essential here as transportation, namely our congested highways, our aging infrastructure and our bridges badly in need of repair. Business owners are watching closely to see just what kind of relief may be ahead.
A Place to Do Business – Connecticut’s business landscape represents a unique paradox for those who currently work here as well as those considering doing business here.
Time and time again we are told of the great quality-of-life benefits that are prevalent in Fairfield County. Excellent schools, a highly educated workforce, our close proximity to both Boston and New York, some of the country’s finest colleges and universities, and pleasant, livable communities continue to make this an attractive destination.
Despite these assets, Fairfield County—like the rest of Connecticut—continually struggles to attract new business. While this is one of the top regions in education, it ranks significantly lower in terms of both job growth and the cost of doing business.
We repeatedly hear this high cost is hampering economic growth, exacerbated by high taxes, budget deficits, high energy costs, aging transportation infrastructure and a highly regulated business environment. This must be addressed this year.
In 2015 we need to be mindful of both our strengths and our challenges. We have made strides in recent years, emerging from the recession and moving forward, and we need to continue with that momentum. Economic competitiveness is not just about business—it impacts everyone who works and lives in our state.
John A. Zinno, Jr., CPA, is a partner with BlumShapiro and heads the firm’s Fairfield County office in Shelton. BlumShapiro is the largest regional accounting, tax and business consulting firm based in New England, with offices in Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island. The firm, with over 400 professionals and staff, offers a diversity of services which includes auditing, accounting, tax and business advisory services. In addition, BlumShapiro provides a variety of specialized consulting services such as succession and estate planning, business technology services, employee benefit plan audits, litigation support and valuation, and financial staffing. The firm serves a wide range of privately held companies, government and non-profit organizations and provides non-audit services for publicly traded companies.