AVZ survey: Outlook for 2016 mostly good

The economic outlook for 2016 is largely promising, according to a survey of Long Island businesses released today by Hauppauge accounting firm AVZ.

Results of the “Long Island Economic Survey & Opinion Poll,” which were presented at a breakfast and panel discussion this morning at the Crest Hollow Country Club, show increased confidence in the Long Island economy, with an average confidence rating of 6.1 (out of 10), up from 5.7 last year and 4.9 in 2011. Similarly, confidence in the national economy rose from 5.8 last year to 6.1 this year. The survey was conducted in October and November.

Nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of respondents saw an increase in revenue over the prior year, while 61 percent predict revenue growth for 2016. More companies (34 percent versus 23 percent) increased headcount in 2015 than contracted, and in 2016, only 2 percent of respondents plan to decrease headcount, versus 46 percent who expect their numbers to swell.

On the downside, volatility in the stock market has altered the investment plans of 92 percent of respondents. More respondents expect the stock market to decline (38 percent) than rise (15 percent) in 2016. The majority of respondents (71 percent) believe struggling global economies, such as those in China, Greece and Brazil, will impact the U.S. economy.

Nationally, the recovery has been slow, impacting different companies in different ways.

“It’s been a tale of two cities – I’ve heard people say they’ve had good times and some have had bad times,” said panelist Rick Lazio, a former New York State Congressman who is director of the AlliantGroup. “Wages have been largely stagnant, but there have been some hopeful signs in the last few months that we will see wage growth.”

Locally, “sales tax revenue has stabilized with moderate growth, retail has bounced back, housing prices have come back,” Lazio added, noting the region needs to leverage its research institutions like Brookhaven National Laboratory and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and improve infrastructure to see sustained growth.

The biggest challenges for business owners over the next decade will include cybersecurity, regulatory compliance, infrastructure and access to skilled workers as the local workforce ages, Lazio said, noting the need to keep young people and embrace immigrants to feed the pipeline of workers needed to help businesses here grow.

The other panelists were Kimberly Cline, president of Long Island University, and Jamie Moore, chairman and president of manufacturing trade group ADDAPT.

Cline spoke about the need for local colleges to better present the advantages of going to school in the New York area.

Long Island high school graduates “are going all over the country for college, but we need to communicate the advantages of going to school here, especially as the universities are aligning their programs with jobs in the city, and students have the opportunity to do spring and fall internships, which often lead to job offers,” Cline said.

Moore spoke about optimism and resiliency in the manufacturing sector, noting the departure of Northrop Grumman had an upside.

“It forced companies in the aerospace sector to diversify their customer base” which has helped them survive, Moore said.

Survey respondents were also asked to predict who will become president in 2016.

Almost half (47 percent) expect Hillary Rodham Clinton to get the nod, while nearly a quarter (23 percent) think Donald Trump will land in the White House.