Business leaders confident about economy

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - A new report from the Gulf Coast Business Council says area business leaders see a "modestly improving" economy.

The quarterly survey of CEO's and company owners finds "business confidence" on the rise.

For the past five years, with help from chambers of commerce, the Gulf Coast Business Council has surveyed CEO's and business owners, asking the same set of questions about the economy.

"What we're seeing is more confidence looking forward. And more importantly, more folks are answering the question about the current economy more favorably than they did in the past," said Scott King, with the Gulf Coast Business Council.

Even though predictions about economic growth are positive, just 22 percent of business owners said they plan on hiring more workers in the next six months.

"The vast majority, about 60 percent, say we're doing to wait and see. And again, that goes back  we know we've seen five months of sales growth down here. I think that employers will be more willing to commit to hiring once they've seen that turn into six, nine and so on," King explained.

The president of People's Bank is bullish on the coast economy. His leading indicator, gaming revenue, was up eight-tenths of a percent in September over last year.

"Loan demand is up. Deposits are up. It's like we're in a very shallow bowl and we've been in this recession for a long time. But I think we're starting to see the gradual upside progression of the economy," said Chevis Swetman, bank president.

Several business leaders we talked with said one big variable is the upcoming election.

The head of the Mississippi Economic Council said the upcoming vote is much like the impending new year.

"In people's planning they're thinking, 'Well let's wait until after the election, wait until after the first of the year'. I do think we won't see an immediate rush after the election, but I think next calendar year, starting on January one, we're going to see things start come back," said Blake Wilson, president of the economic council.

Wilson said Mississippi is poised to take full advantage of that economic recovery.

The quarterly survey also questioned business owners about the primary concerns impacting their companies.

The "cost" of doing business and "adverse government regulations" were among the top responses.

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