The long-awaited results of the Chester County Economic Development Council’s 2017 Take the Pulse Survey were shared with the county commissioners, local chambers of commerce, and the general public on Tuesday morning.
Among the key findings were that business owners are far more optimistic about the business climate in Chester County today compared to a year ago, and that they anticipate increased revenue growth in the next 12 months.
The online survey, which is in its second year, is a key component of VISTA 2025, the county’s 10-year economic development strategy. More than 300 businesses responded to the survey that is designed to assess the business climate in Chester County, while providing valuable insight into the challenges and opportunities facing businesses today.
More than half of businesses surveyed (53 percent) cite an improving business climate in Chester County, compared to 46 percent from last year’s survey. Additionally, half of all respondents anticipate revenue growth of up to 10 percent in the next 12 months, while 25 percent expect their revenue growth to increase at least 11 percent to more than 20 percent.
A new question in this year’s survey addressed priorities for economic development in the county. More than a quarter of those surveyed favor either redevelopment of vacant industrial sites (27 percent) or transportation infrastructure funding (26 percent) as the highest priority investment for economic development in the county.
An additional 16 percent cite the need for programs and initiatives for emerging businesses in the area, an important finding according to MaryFrances McGarrity, Senior Vice president of Business Development for the CCEDC.
“The idea is to get the businesses here, nurture them, and have them staying here for long periods of time,” she said. “We really want to focus on what we’re giving the business community to help them grow.”
Results indicated that the primary reason for locating a company in Chester County is because the principal decision-maker lives in the area (47 percent). “Quality of Place,” however, plays a more critical role in the county’s economic success than before, as 27 percent (compared to 16 percent in 2016) give it as the main reason they located in Chester County.
“Corporate community, culture, open spaces, and preservation are keys to what it means by ‘Quality of Place,’” said McGarrity. “We really need to provide these opportunities for businesses to come and locate here so they can flourish.”
Compared to last year, significantly more respondents have a positive view of several characteristics of Chester County as a place for business, including its natural environment/open spaces (90 percent vs. 76 percent last year), its location and access to markets (86 percent vs. 78 percent), and the presence of related business customers (77 percent vs. 58 percent).
By contrast, positive impressions of Chester County are not as strong as before in terms of:
- availability of the workforce (63 percent vs. 72 percent last year)
- infrastructure (39 percent vs. 58 percent)
- roads and highways (37 percent vs. 62 percent)
- permitting/municipal approval process (19 percent vs. 26 percent)
While McGarrity cautions that these ratings are not negative, they show that some characteristics have slipped compared to last year.
“We need to keep our eyes on these ratings,” she said, “and if it continues to be an annual trend, we need to keep ahead of it to continue to support businesses and deploy resources.”
Complete results of the Take the Pulse Survey, including methodology and profiles of participating businesses, can be found by clicking here.
“The results of this second Take the Pulse Survey give us valuable guidance on where to focus our energy as we work to improve the economic health of Chester County,” said Michelle Kichline, Chair of the Chester County Commissioners and Co-Chair of VISTA 2025. “In addition to building upon all of the positive views expressed in the survey, we will address the factors that remain challenges for businesses, including workforce availability, transportation, and infrastructure.”