City of Long Beach Business Survey 2000
May 2001, 89pp.
By: MARK DRAYSE AND DANIEL FLAMING, ECONOMIC ROUNDTABLE
The Business Survey 2000 is the seventh annual survey of businesses conducted by the City of Long Beach. The first surveys tracked the hardships faced by businesses emerging from the recession of the early 1990s that hit Long Beach especially hard, due to massive layoffs at the McDonnell-Douglas (now Boeing) plant. Recent surveys have reflected the post-recession growth of the local economy. For example, the percent of businesses reporting that Long Beach was a positive business location increased steadily, from 54 percent of survey respondents in 1994 to 69 percent in 2000. In recent surveys more respondents were growing and making plans for continued growth; and fewer were reporting business problems.
However, current economic trends suggest that the growth period of the late 1990s is over, and we are either entering a recession or a less severe economic downturn. An indication that business is slowing down in Long Beach is provided by employment trends of survey respondents: while their total employment grew 3.8 percent between 1998 and 1999, it fell 1.1 percent between 1999 and 2000. Although the results from the 2000 survey are generally positive, this statistic suggests that local businesses may be bracing for harder times ahead.
CHARACTERISTICS OF SURVEY RESPONDENTS
Surveys were mailed to 1,212 firms, and 553 firms returned completed surveys. This resulted in a very good response rate of 45.6 percent.
Of these firms, 469 (85 percent) were classified into one of the targeted industry sectors: retail trade, food services, finance and insurance, and real estate. Two in three respondents (69 percent) had fewer than 10 employees, 12 percent had between 10 and 19 employees, 7 percent had 20 to 49 employees, and less than 4 percent had 50-99 employees. Only two survey respondents had 100 or more employees. The largest number of survey respondents was located in Southeast Long Beach, which accounted for 167 of the 553 respondents (30 percent). Of the 553 survey respondents, 109 (20 percent) were female-owned and 170 (31 percent) were minority-owned.
EMPLOYMENT AND REVENUE TRENDS
A total of 406 firms reported annual employment in each year from 1997 to 2000. Net employment increased 5.1 percent in all of these firms between 1997 and 2000. Looking at annual employment change, we see that job growth between 1997-98 and 1998-99 was followed by job loss between 1999-2000.
While total employment among survey firms declined slightly between 1999 and 2000, four in five firms reported that their revenues increased or remained stable between 1999 and 2000. Forty percent had increased sales, 40 percent had stable sales, and 20 percent had declining sales.
PERCEPTIONS OF LONG BEACH AND OTHER LOCATION ISSUES
Seven in ten survey respondents (69 percent) considered Long Beach to be a positive location for business. About one in seven survey respondents (14 percent) plan to relocate in Long Beach. Only six percent of survey respondents are planning to relocate outside Long Beach.
Few firms were interested in either site selection assistance or were using enterprise zone tax credits. Altogether, 6 percent of survey respondents were interested in site selection assistance, and 7 percent were already taking advantage of Enterprise Zone tax credits.
PLANS FOR BUSINESS GROWTH
Two-thirds of all firms responding to the 2000 business survey were planning to increase sales in the next year. Fifteen percent of survey firms plan to expand their building (or buildings) in the next year. Twenty-eight percent of survey firms plan to invest in equipment in the next year. Fifty-eight percent of survey respondents plan to expand their customer base, and forty-two percent of firms plan to increase employment.
Almost one in three firms (29 percent) think that their industry is in a downturn, and 18 indicated that suppliers or customers had closed or relocated in the past year.
Twenty-one percent of survey respondents stated that city regulations were affecting business. The percent of retail and food service establishments with regulation issues was slightly higher than the 23 percent level in the 1997 survey, but well below the 38 percent of retail and food service firms in the 1994 survey reporting problems with city regulation. Only ten percent of finance and insurance firms in the 2000 survey had regulatory problems, down considerably from 22 percent in 1997 and 37 percent in 1994.
Twenty-seven percent of survey respondents reported increased problems with security and safety. The percent of firms reporting increased problems with safety and security has dropped significantly since the 1994 survey.
Several indicators of business problems were combined to produce a composite indicator of business distress. Eighteen percent of survey respondents were classified as distressed businesses. Retail and food service establishments were more than twice as likely to be distressed businesses than were finance, insurance, and real estate firms.
HIRING AND TRAINING ISSUES
Twenty-three percent of survey respondents had difficulties recruiting qualified employees in the past year. The incidence of recruiting difficulties was directly related to establishment size. Forty-three percent of establishments with 50-99 employees had recruiting difficulties, compared to 19 percent of establishments with 1-9 employees. Eleven percent of survey respondents were interested in hiring youth.
Twenty-six percent of survey respondents were interested in obtaining information about the hiring tax credit. Fourteen percent of survey respondents were interested in receiving training information.