Poll: local businesses see boost in county’s biz outlook

The Chester County Commissioners announced the results of the annual business survey, Tuesday. (l-r) Terence Farrell, Chester County Commissioner; Mike Grigalonis, Chief Operating Officer and Executive Vice President, Chester County Economic Development Council (CCEDC); MaryFrances McGarrity, Senior Vice President of Business Development Services, Chester County Economic Development Council (CCEDC); Michelle Kichline, Chester County Commissioners’ Chair and Co-Chair of VISTA2025; Kathi Cozzone, Chester County Commissioner.

EXTON — The business climate is good and getting better, according to the results of a new poll of Chester County businesses, released by the county Tuesday.

The Chester County Board of Commissioners and Chester County Economic Development Council (CCEDC) today released the results of a survey of local businesses. Phase 2 of the “Take the Pulse” business survey shows significant changes from the survey’s findings one year ago.

Conducted by CCEDC in partnership with the County Commissioners and the county’s ten chambers of commerce, the “Take the Pulse” survey is a key component of VISTA 2025, Chester County’s ten-year economic development strategy designed to maintain the economic health of the county by striking a balance between progress and preservation.

More than 300 business decision makers responded to the online, 20-question survey assessing the business climate in Chester County. A new question added to the survey this year gained feedback on priorities for economic development investment. Survey respondents strongly favored redevelopment of vacant industrial sites and investment in transportation infrastructure. Other key results from the Take the Pulse survey include:

  • “Quality of Place” continues to play a critical role in Chester County’s economic success. 27 percent of respondents cited it as the primary reason they are located in Chester County (up from 16 percent the prior year).
  • Business owners in 2017 are more optimistic for growth in Chester County (53 percent “improving”) compared to one year ago (46 percent “improving” in 2016).
  • Three-quarters of respondents (75 percent) are optimistic for growth in their own companies.
  • Traffic congestion and the availability of qualified workforce candidates remain concerns.

Compared to 2016 findings, respondents in 2017 have a significantly more positive view of several characteristics of Chester County, including:

  • Natural environment/open space (90 percent net positive ratings in 2017, up from 76 percent in 2016)
  • Location/access to markets (86 percent from 78 percent)
  • Presence of related business clusters (77 percent from 58 percent)

Areas where impressions of Chester County declined compared to 2016 include:

  • Availability of workforce (63 percent net positive ratings in 2017, down from 72 percent in 2016)
  • Infrastructure (down to 39 percent from 58 percent)
  • Roads/highways (37 percent from 62 percent)
  • Permitting process/municipal approval process (19 percent from 26 percent).

“The purpose of this survey is to give us an efficient, high-level look into the minds of the business community. We get a snapshot of their views in a specific year and can also begin to look at trends and how those views change from year to year,” said Mike Grigalonis, CCEDC Chief Operating Officer and Executive Vice President.

Michelle Kichline, Chester County Commissioners’ Chair and Co-Chair of VISTA 2025, noted, “The results of this second Take the Pulse survey give us valuable guidance on where to focus our energy as we work to improve the economic health of Chester County. In addition to building upon all of the positive views expressed in the survey, we will address the factors that remain challenges for businesses, including workforce availability, transportation and infrastructure.”

The complete results from Phase 2 of CCEDC’s “Take the Pulse Survey” will be shared with the Chester County Commissioners, local chambers and the general public to help guide future decision making and policy considerations. CCEDC will also draw insights from the top trends to guide its programs and services for area businesses including successful practices of job creation, generation of commercial tax ratables, business retention and enhancement, agricultural economic development and workforce development.

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