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The North Country Chamber of Commerce has released the results of its 2023 Annual Issue Survey, defining the position of regional business on a number of key issues and expressing expectations for the year ahead.

"We said a year ago that if inflation, workforce and supply chain challenges persisted, they would have an effect on confidence and expectations and we are seeing that," says Chamber President Garry Douglas. "The Business Confidence Index in 2022 was 90%, with 71% expecting their business activity to be up and 19% expecting it to remain steady. For 2023, we are still at a positive level of 80%, with a majority of 51% anticipating business growth with 29% expecting no change. That shift is definitely tied to continued strong challenges in terms of rising costs, a very tight labor pool and expectations that 2023 may see a national recession or slowdown."

Douglas notes, however, that while a small regional majority still expects growth and only 20% expect business to be down, 69% believe the New York State economy will be down this year and 71% believe similarly for the national economy. 62% believe that if there is a recession this year, "our economic region has positioned itself better than most rural regions of New York." "The fact that confidence is higher about our region than about the state and nation is welcome," says Douglas, "and reflects such factors as strong employment, the return of Canadian visitors and investment, the expected growth in much of our area manufacturing base including transportation equipment, and being in the businesses we now are in."

At the same time, the Chamber points to several key issues, some of which have been major concerns for two years:

  • 63% indicate that staffing shortages are limiting hours, productivity and/or business activity, causing lost business.
  • 34% believe workforce challenges have become worse in the past year. Only 10% believe they have become better.
  • 92% cite quality, affordable housing for working people as a growing regional challenge, requiring enhanced state attention and support.
  • 92% say that as the State's Climate Action Council's Scoping Plan sets deadlines for the transition of buildings, businesses, and homes to clean electric sources, eliminating gas and oil, it will be important to maintain energy supplies during the transition and to avoid negative economic impacts on New York residents and businesses from mandated changes.
  • 94% say it is important that the State avoid new cost-increasing mandates on small business and employers at this time.
  • 66% oppose the proposed automatic annual increase of the state minimum wage in line with inflation.
  • 84% believe New York must address the causes of the out-migration of residents from the state as a priority.​

Overall, the priorities for action on the state level this year are:

  1. Avoid new mandates on small business and employers.
  2. Address workforce shortages in various ways.
  3. Increase regional availability of quality, affordable housing.

On the federal level this year, 95% call for the U.S. and Canadian governments to focus on further coordinated progress toward normalization of border crossings, aiming for restored 2019 levels of travel. Other findings include:

  • 89% support for further federal and state support to enhance access to affordable childcare as an essential part of meeting workforce needs.
  • 90% indicate that inflation is negatively impacting their business and must be brought under control. 91% indicate similarly for supply chain challenges.
  • 86% support immigration reform that includes enhanced legal immigration to help meet workforce shortages, and that this is timely and important to many sectors including hospitality, agriculture, health care, engineering, and manufacturing.

Priorities for federal action this year are:

  1. Bring inflation under control.
  2. Further progress toward normalization of U.S.-Canada border crossings.
  3. Enhance availability of affordable childcare.
  4. Increased legal immigration to help meet workforce needs.

The Chamber's 2023 Issue Survey results have been shared with federal and state officials and will be used to help guide the Chamber's advocacy efforts in the coming months in Washington, Albany and elsewhere.

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