Long Beach Business: 1996 Long Beach Business Survey
By: MARK DRAYSE AND DANIEL FLAMING, ECONOMIC ROUNDTABLE
The 1996 Business Survey is the second annual survey of businesses undertaken by the City of Long Beach to guide and strengthen business outreach and retention efforts. The purpose is to:
- Identify the concerns, needs and opportunities of businesses in order to strengthen City programs for supporting Long Beach's economic base.
- Respond to the needs of individual businesses and facilitate access to City services to help firms remain viable and competitive.
- Provide information to businesses about City programs and services.
- Provide tangible evidence of the City's concern about business retention and growth.
- Obtain information about potential lay-offs of workers and job openings which might provide employment for laid-off workers.
- Identify workforce recruitment and training needs of Long Beach businesses.
Coverage and responses:
- 445 firms responded to the mail survey
- On-site follow up interviews were completed with 157 firms
- Follow-up on issues raised by firms resulted in 416 "hot sheet" referrals to City agencies
- Transportation, wholesale trade, and health services sectors were over-sampled to support additional outreach services to these industries
- The greatest number of responses came from the West-Central and South-West Central planning districts
- The survey response rate was 20% lower, and number of site visits 30% lower, than in 1995
- Number of "hot sheet" closures was 644% higher than in 1995, reflecting stronger support from City agencies and more effective effort by the Business Outreach Team
Long Beach as a Good Location for Business
Two closely related questions on the survey asked firms for their bottom-line assessment about whether they perceive Long Beach to be a positive location for business, and whether they would select Long Beach if they were choosing a location for their business today. Businesses rating Long Beach favorably indicate types of industries the City might attract, while businesses giving unfavorable ratings indicate areas where attention may be needed. Overall, 51% of firms say they perceive Long Beach as a positive location for business (3% less than in 1995), and 56% say they would select Long Beach as the location for their business if they were making this decision today (4% more than in 1995). These ratings are closely linked to each other, and rise and fall together depending on industry sector, area of the City, size, and profitability of the firm.
Overview of Business Issues
- Over two-thirds of firms expect their customer base and sales to grow in the next three years
- Forty-three percent of firms say their industry is in recession
- Long Beach's central location, port and freeways were identified as primary strengths in the mail survey
- Businesses recommended actions to increase police availability, reduce business license fees, and reduce crime in order to strengthen the business environment
- Strengthening the educational system emerges as a major issue in on-site interviews
Long Beach Strengths
- The percent of firms saying they would still locate in Long Beach if they were making the choice today has increased since 1995.
- In both 1995 and 1996, the major strengths of doing business in Long Beach that firms identify are freeway access, port facilities, access to customers, and central location.
- Compared to 1995, more firms say they will expand their product line, but fewer say they will expand equipment, in the next three years.
- Larger firms are more likely than smaller firms to state that Long Beach is a positive location for business
- The most positive view of Long Beach as a business location was reported by firms in the South-West Central and East/South-Eastern planning districts
- A majority of firms in every industry sector except retail stated that Long Beach is a positive location for business
- Fewer firms in every size group, the West Central and South-West Central planning districts, and every industry sector except transportation had lay-offs last year
- Fewer firms in every size group, planning district and industry sector report being adversely affected by regulatory pressures
Long Beach Problems
- One-fifth of firms report laying-off workers in the past year, down from 24% in 1995
- One-quarter of firms are undecided about renewing their lease when it expires
- 44% of firms report that problems with security are increasing (down from 50% in 1995)
- Two-fifths of firms report customers or suppliers leaving, industry recession, and sales decreasing in the past 3 years (down from half reporting these problems in 1995)
- The City business license fee is bothering more firms, but City responsiveness is cited as a problem by fewer firms
- Public safety continues to be the biggest problem
- More firms in every size group report they are considering relocating, problem areas include the North planning district and retail trade (both doubling since 1995)
- The percent of medium size firms (50-99 employees) with problems finding qualified workers doubled since 1995
Workforce Retention and Training
- If health care is excluded, employment in established firms (i.e., firms starting business before 1991) increased by 12% between 1992 and 1995. Employment in health care firms represented in the survey declined by 7% between 1992 and 1995, due to ongoing restructuring and cutbacks in the industry. Overall, this is a significant improvement over the 14% employment decline reported by established firms in the 1995 survey.
- Forty percent of firms interviewed requested assistance in recruiting qualified workers. The most frequently requested form of training assistance was on-site training for new workers.
City Issues and Actions
- There is strong concern about public safety, blight and deterioration, and business license fees
- Police availability, preference to local firms for City business, recruitment of new business, and supporting business stand out as specific calls for action from both the mail survey and on-site interviews
- City services requested most frequently were: long-term financing, public safety, business consulting service, and help in finding additional facility space
- Information about Enterprise and Revitalization Zone benefits was the follow-up action most frequently requested by firms
- The greatest number of requests for help were referred to the Economic Development Bureau, Police Department and Public Works
- Referrals for follow-up action have become more focused since 1995, reflecting greater experience and knowledge of City services on the part of the Outreach Team
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