Local Business Forecast 2019
COOKIES OR CRUMBS?
At the end of every year, the Whatcom Business Alliance (WBA) surveys companies throughout Bellingham and Whatcom County to learn their business projections for the coming 12 months. Optimistic or pessimistic? Confident or shaky? Good fortune—or not?
The survey serves another purpose: giving the WBA insights into how it can facilitate local-business success—its core value and mission. As always, the business-confidence survey results remain anonymous as we extract information industry-by-industry to get a reading on respondents’ outlooks and concerns. It also helps the WBA in planning and programming.
Among the 188 responses, more than one-half were from Bellingham and another 22% each were from other cities or unincorporated Whatcom County. The most responses came (about equally) from professional services, manufacturing, and maritime/fishing. Nearly half do business locally or in the region, about 38% have a national clientele, and 27% are involved in international business.
From the responses, we gleaned this picture:
Business was up in 2018 over 2017—with about one-third reporting gains of 10% or more, and roughly the same with 5-10% gains. About 28% indicated that business stayed the same, and 12% showed a falloff.
Projections for 2019 indicated that 88% of respondents either see a jump in their business coming, or at least remaining on an even keel. Just 12% said they expect business to go down. About 28% said they expect about the same, 30% expect 5-10% growth, and 30% expect even higher than 10% growth.
Two of the multiple-choice options stood out in the question about major constraints on business growth: one, availability of training; two, taxes and government changes in licensing and regulations.
Four major concerns ranked about equally—healthcare costs; the general state of the economy; the availability of high-quality employees, and regulatory requirements.
All in all, the survey seems to reveal a generally positive message as we embark on the new year, with confidence riding the wave of national and local reports of a healthy economy in terms of employment, wages, and consumer spending.