January 3, 2023
The City of Portsmouth Office of Economic Development, through the Economic Development Commission (EDC), conducted a 2022 Business Retention and Expansion Survey (BR&E), launched in October, to better understand the local business environment and learn more about how the EDC can help businesses in the community prosper. Now the team is working to analyze the results and identify the key economic concerns that will inform the Commission’s BR&E Working Group’s ongoing actions to benefit the City’s business community.
“Arguably, the most important aspect of this survey is that it provides the foundation for the next step in what will be an ongoing effort to strengthen ties with the business community, the Economic Development Office and the EDC,” said Sean Clancy, Portsmouth Assistant City Manager for Economic Development.
Added Phil Cohen, EDC Chairperson, “The Working Group expects to be recommending and executing short and medium-term relationship-building activities across the year after drilling down into the voluminous survey results. We plan to expand existing and add additional channels of communication and support for the various business and non-profit sectors that make up the fabric of our economy to keep them connected and informed.”
The BR&E 2022 survey was answered by 185 participants (an 8 percent return). Most participants replied that their businesses are headquartered in Portsmouth and that they are year- round, for-profit enterprises. While a range of industry sectors were represented in the survey results, including professional, scientific and technical services, the arts, entertainment, recreation, health care, social assistance, hospitality and retail, it was noted that some sectors were underrepresented, particularly among the larger employers in the area. The Working Group plans to refine its outreach efforts for future communications and requests for input to ensure the widest possible range of results.
Key findings from the survey which the EDC will address in coming months include:
· Four in ten respondents expect their business to be better off financially in a year. Fewer than one in ten expect it to be worse off.
· More than three-quarters of those whose business has been operating in Portsmouth for less than two years expect their business to be better off a year from now.
· Key concerns to improve their financial positions were: finding employees, attracting additional revenue or clients and having a better overall economic environment.
· About one-third of respondents say it is very or somewhat likely that their business will expand in the next two years.
· If they were to expand, respondents are split between expansion in Portsmouth or elsewhere. Those who would prefer to expand elsewhere most often said they would do so to access other markets or to lower overhead.
· Nearly half of respondents expect their business's staffing needs to increase over the next twelve months, with many interested in hiring mid-level or entry-level employees.
· A majority are “very” or “somewhat confident” in their ability to hire the employees they need in the next two years and a similar number describe the available pool of employees in Portsmouth and those surrounding area as “very good” or “good.”
Challenges Facing Businesses
· Four in ten respondents, particularly those in the hospitality sector, said that their business has been affected “a lot” or “some” by zoning or permitting restrictions in Portsmouth.
· Respondents indicated that economic uncertainty is by far the most serious concern for their business, followed by being unable to hire employees, high energy costs, lack of employee housing and a lack of demand for goods or services.
The Portsmouth Business Climate
· Only about a quarter of all those surveyed were confident their business could find an affordable location in Portsmouth if they were to expand there.
· Just over one-quarter of respondents are promoters of starting or relocating a business in Portsmouth, citing its quality of life, good business environment, and their appreciation of Portsmouth.
· Nearly half were detractors, citing the high cost of doing business, and challenges in doing business with the City.
The role of the Economic Development Commission is to ensure continued economic prosperity and preservation of the qualities that attract and retain businesses in the community. The Commission makes recommendations to the City Council on a wide variety of issues related to economic development, including business development, public-private partnerships, maintenance and development of the commercial, industrial and central business districts, and business attraction programs. For further information please contact Assistant City Manager for Economic Development Sean Clancy at (603) 610-7220 or go to: https://www.cityofportsmouth.com/economic/economic-development-commission