Mayor Mark Jamieson
Mayor Mark Jamieson Iain Curry

Business confidence at six year high

IT'S business time.

That is the message from the Sunshine Coast Council as the latest statistics reveal business confidence is at a six-year high.

The Sunshine Coast Business Confidence survey shows that business owners are the most confident they have been since 2009.

More than 50% reported their past six months had been stronger than previous periods.

The report, conducted by Boardroom Business, surveyed 222 Coast businesses in November.

THIRTY-five percent of respondents reported the last six months of trade had bettered the previous six months, while 39% of businesses were predicting the next six months would be even stronger again.

Mayor Mark Jamieson said optimism was returning among local entrepreneurs.

"The business confidence index has risen to 116 points, which is an all-time high since surveying began here in 2009 and nearly 20 points higher than the rock-bottom depths of April 2011 after the Queensland floods," Cr Jamieson said.

"Results from the first half of 2014 showed a trend of optimism returning to the business community and these latest numbers clearly show that confidence is continuing to rise."

The positivity was measured across a number of fields, with 56% of those surveyed expecting an increase in profitability over the next six months, while 30% expected an increase in capital investment.

It wasn't all good news though, as 56% of respondents predicted there would be no change in their staffing levels over the next six months.

Sunshine Coast Business Enterprise Centre manager Rod Richards said while it may appear to be all positive, one couldn't ignore the fact that business had been lacklustre on the Coast for the past few years.

"Most business analysts are predicting a fairly difficult year, rather than a boom year," Mr Richards said.

Sunshine Coast Business Council chairwoman Sandy Zubrinich said they had noticed it was not only business owners' confidence on the rise, but that local consumers were more readily dipping into their wallets than they had previously.

"Starting a new year, State Election upon us, perhaps we're showing a little bit of optimism for 2015," Ms Zubrinich said.

Ms Zubrinich said it was hard to pinpoint what had driven the latest increase in confidence given the current economic climate.

"There's really not a lot of major indicators that's saying things are improving," she said.

"We have had good weather and a good tourist season; the last three to six months there's been no real setbacks in the tourism sector."

Many respondents, 51% in total, agreed that rising overheads and utility costs were the biggest restrictions on the growth of their business, while 40% said customer-driven price pressure was holding them back from expanding.

Cr Jamieson said the Sunshine Coast Regional Economic Development Strategy (REDS) would provide the platform for continued positivity throughout the region.

"Under this strategy we have identified the high value industries that are the keys to future employment and economic growth on the Sunshine Coast," Cr Jamieson said.

"They complement the Sunshine Coast lifestyle and our natural advantages and will provide a platform for future quality employment opportunities for our children as well as providing incentives for them to study here and attain quality work opportunities."

Mr Richards warned against making generalisations about business confidence, as they often masked the deeper issues.

"Unless the economy of the nation is doing well and you have growth in wages, people don't have more money to spend," Mr Richards said.

"It'll be great if that's really the case (that confidence is up) and good if business owners have changed that attitude and become more positive."

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