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Small Business Research Board (SBRB) Study: Health Care Costs Again Leading Concern of Small Business; Lower Revenue, Hiring Projections Cause Drop in Confidence Index


Regionally, small businesses in Northeast and Midwest most pessimistic according to SBRB report prepared in conjunction with International Profit Associates. Within the industry categories, confidence in Construction and Contracting sector continues to grow while “Food” business holds steady. Manufacturing and Transportation confidence indexes show significant declines.

Northfield, IL, April 10, 2007 --(PR.com)-- The cost of health care has replaced concern about energy and fuel as the leading issue impacting small businesses, according to the latest Small Business Research Board (SBRB) study released here today.

International Profit Associates (IPA) co-sponsored the study. IPA, with more than 1,800 professionals, is the largest privately-held provider of management consulting services to small and medium-size businesses in North America. IPA is based in Buffalo Grove, IL.

The quarterly nationwide poll of small business owners and managers indicated that concern about health care costs is the leading issue in three of the four regions throughout the country and in two of the four business categories in which individualized data is reported. Small businesses in the Northeast, Midwest and South/Southwest reported that health care costs were the leading concern. Construction and contracting companies along with manufacturing firms nationwide concurred. Health care costs tied as the second greatest issue among food service and processing companies and was the third great concern among transportation businesses.

Health care costs were the second greatest issue as reported in the previous study conducted during the fourth quarter of 2006. Energy and fuel costs were identified as the leading issue during the prior report and didn’t finish among the current study’s top three. Concerns about economic conditions and the issue of taxes finished second and third behind health care costs.

“It is interesting to note that purely domestic issues such as concerns about health care and taxes have overtaken worries about energy and fuel as the leading issues faced by small businesses,” said Gregg Steinberg, President of IPA.

“Energy and fuel availability and costs have leveled considerably reducing the uncertainties and gyrating costs that caused business owners and managers so much grief. Meanwhile, these same businesses are being challenged by much more time sensitive beginning of the year issues such as renewal of health care insurance coverage with higher premium amounts and the planning, preparation and filing of corporate and personal tax returns,” Steinberg added.

Overall, respondents participating in the current survey are sending a mixed message about their faith in the economy. The national SBRB Small Business Confidence Index (SBCI) dropped nearly two points to 40.78 from the 42.71 in the prior quarter. While concern about the economy is now the second leading issue, the slight decrease can be more attributed to far lower revenue estimates and hiring projections for the next 12 months. Opinions and projections about the strength of the economy, revenues and hiring looking forward 12 months are the three key ingredients to determining the SBCI and providing the basis for quarterly and annual comparisons.

Nationally, 40.07% of the respondents believe the economy will improve during the next 12 months, up from the 39% from the winter 2006 quarter. However, 53.71% of the respondents believe their revenues will increase during the same period, a decrease of nearly five points from the 58.5% who forecasted improved revenues late in 2006. Furthermore, small businesses are reducing hiring projections with 28.71% of the respondents noting their intention to increase staffing, which is a decline from the 31% previously recorded.

“Businesses are less optimistic than the previous quarter about the strength of the economy and recognize the need to change their revenue projections and hiring plans. It appears that more business owners and managers are prepared to be both realistic in modifying their revenue predictions and pro-active in adjusting their hiring levels should it be necessary,” said Steinberg.

REGIONAL RESULTS

The confidence of small business registered declines in the Northeast by slightly less than three points to 40.3 and in the Midwest by nearly 10 points to 32.33. The drop in the Midwest was precipitated by declines in all three measurement categories demonstrating deep pessimism about business prospects for the next 12 months. Meanwhile, small businesses in the South / Southwest and Mountain States and West Cost are more optimistic, each reporting higher SBCI tallies of 42.67 and 49.98 respectively.

All Small Business NE MW S/SW MTN/PAC

SBRB 40.78 40.36 32.33 42.67 49.48
SBCI
March/April
03/07

Prior 42.7 43.47 42.2 38.2 45.9
_________________________________________________________

Economy 40.07 44.2 31.5 43.7 44.1
Improving
March/April
03/07

Prior 39.0 41.5 37.1 35.1 38.9
_________________________________________________________

Revenue 53.71 50.0 47.5 54.8 62.87
Increase
March/April
03/07

Prior 58.5 57.2 59.2 55.9 63.5
_________________________________________________________

Hiring 28.71 26.9 18.01 29.5 41.48
March/April
03/07

Prior 31.0 31.7 30.2 23.5 35.5
_________________________________________________________

INDUSTRY RESULTS

The construction and contracting industry reported a second consecutive quarter with an increased SBCI. The sector’s SBCI rose to 43.4. more than one point better than its previous 42.04 score from late last year. This is a positive sign for the industry, which had an SBCI of under 31 points in the third quarter if 2006.

The food service and food processing category held steady with an SBCI of 38.03, a slight decrease from the 38.8 that was previously recorded.

Transportation companies appear to be the most pessimistic of the industries measured, reporting nearly a 10 point decline in its SBCI to 36.1 from 45.7. Transportation companies 12 month revenue estimates are far less than the estimates rendered in the final 2006 study.

Manufacturing also are less optimistic about revenues during the next 12 months as well as hiring needs. These factors combined to drop the Manufacturing SBCI to 37.0 from 43.2

Const Trans Food Manu

SBRB 43.4 36.1 38.03 37.0
SBCI
March/April
03/07

Prior 42.04 45.7 38.8 43.2
_______________________________________________

Economy 43.4 33.3 34.6 40.0
Improving
March/April
03/07

Prior 37.5 45.3 36.0 40.7
________________________________________________

Revenue 55.7 47.6 55.1 47.8
Increase
March/April
03/07

Prior 64.0 62.1 50.3 59.8
_______________________________________________

Hiring 31.1 27.4 24.4 23.3
March/April
03/07

Prior 24.6 29.7 30.1 29.3
________________________________________________

The Small Business Research Board ascertains and reports the opinions of small business owners and managers on a wide variety of topics related to their own businesses as well as national and international issues that may impact their operations. The SBRB conducts these studies for the benefit of small business owners and managers. The SBRB also provides opportunities for third parties to gain real time insight into the attitudes of small businesses nationwide through the independently conducted research.

The universe of participants is developed from among small businesses across the United States. More than 550 small business owners and senior managers participated in this SBRB poll. The SBRB study is a voluntary survey conducted via phone and email.

The latest information about the Small Business Research Board can be found at www.ipasbrb.com.

International Profit Associates, Inc. (IPA) is the largest privately-held provider of management consulting services to small and medium-size businesses in North America. IPA and its more than 1,800 professionals offer a wide range of proven and innovative methodologies to help businesses grow and prosper regardless of the economic cycle. IPA either provides directly or through its affiliated companies a comprehensive array of business advisory services, tax and estate planning services or merger, acquisition and other financial advisory services in the United States and Canada. More information about IPA can be found at www.ipa-iba.com.

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Contact Information
IPA SBRB
Raymond Minkus
(847) 441-4294
Contact
www.ipasbrb.com

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