Survey finds manufacturing thriving in Connecticut; other businesses struggle more

Rocky Hill -- Two percent of Connecticut businesses are very optimistic about their economic recovery, and 15 percent still consider the state to be an ideal place to do business, according to a 2012 survey of businesses in the state.

And it was a good year for manufacturers, with nearly two-thirds of those surveyed reporting a net profit in 2011, and 66 percent saying they expect to this year.

The 2012 Survey of Connecticut Businesses, by the Connecticut Business & Industry Association and BlumShapiro, an accounting and business consulting firm, was released Friday morning at a conference at the Rocky Hill Sheraton on the Connecticut economy.

The report, in general, said companies are being cautious about their profitability, and it pointed to continued slow growth in most sectors.

The survey also found that hiring was up, with 43 percent of respondents either hiring or planning to hire new full-time workers in 2012. And 55 percent of companies in the manufacturing sector reported plans to hire.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Labor Department reported Friday that although the economy added 96,000 jobs in August, the unemployment rate also dropped because people stopped job-hunting.

In Connecticut, the manufacturing industry also reported difficulty in finding qualified workers -- a problem, said CBIA President John Rathgeber, the state is working to address.

"Connecticut's new education reform law and expanded precision machining training in several of the state's community colleges was helping address the state's talent shortage," he said, adding that more progress in workforce development was needed.

Despite this, Connecticut still has a long way to go to create a business climate that fosters economic success, said Thomas DeVitto, Chief Marketing Officer for BlumShapiro, who shared the report's findings.

Since the survey done in summer of 2011, the state's economy has fluctuated. It grew at a moderate pace through January 2012, but has been struggling since then.

Some progress was made this year to address workforce development, small business access to state-financing programs and streamlining regulatory processes. However, the state has a long way to go to create a better business climate if companies are expected to stay in Connecticut and thrive during this slow recovery, the survey said.

The majority of Connecticut companies surveyed -- 59 percent -- recorded a net profit in 2011, and 57 percent said they expected a profit in 2012.

"The fact that business profitability has yet to recover to its pre-recessionary levels is not surprising," said Don Klepper-Smith, chief economist and director of research at DataCorePartners. "It is indicative of the overall slow pace of economic expansion, underlying economic uncertainty and profound structural changes that are often underappreciated."

Cable - a growing industry?

A panel of cable industry leaders and executives at the Connecticut Economy conference discussed the challenges of a growing industry in Connecticut that employs more than 6,700 people.

The revolution in video delivery represented by the use of Internet protocol has now made broadband -- rather than video -- the lead service, said Martin Romitti, senior vice president for Center for Regional Economic Competitiveness. He talked about cable companies receiving more broadband subscribers than video customers.

"About 54.7 percent of small businesses in the Northeast use high speed cable for their broadband access," he said, adding that in order to compete successfully with a video product in such a climate, cable companies, such as CableVision, Comcast, are beginning to capitalize on their incumbent strengths now: high speed broadband rate and consistency of service.