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Local business confidence declines

Just over half of San Diego businesses expect conditions to improve and revenues to rise during the fourth quarter, but less than a third expect to add employees or increase working hours, according to the October Business Forecast released Wednesday by the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce.

The good news is that only 7 percent say conditions will worsen, and about 40 percent say things will remain the same.

But all of the data are more pessimistic than the chamber reports in September and August.

“The positive upswing seen in the summer has not extended into the fall,” said John Nienstedt, president of Competitive Edge Research, which compiles the forecast.

The survey, based on a poll of 100 randomly selected chamber members throughout the last half of September, showed that:

• 53 percent said their revenues will probably or definitely improve in three months, down from 65 percent in late August;

• 53 percent said business conditions would improve, down from 56 percent in August;

• 31 percent said they will probably or definitely hire new employees, compared with 36 percent in August; and,

• 27 percent predicted a rise in working hours during the next three months, compared to 38 percent in August.

Individual businesses complained that several factors were holding them back, from problems with the local infrastructure to changes in health insurance.

But one concern that has been resolved was the summertime fear that the scandals in the last months of San Diego Mayor Bob Filner's term were hurting local business.

In August, 48 percent of respondents said the chaos in the mayor's office was having a negative impact on local business conditions; 20 percent said it was hurting the overall economy "a lot" and 32 percent said it had done a little damage.

After several months dominated by City Hall scandals, the September polling showed the chief qualities that respondents look for in a new mayor are "integrity" and "honesty," with "business-friendly" and "leadership" coming lower on the list.

“The next mayor of San Diego will have a significant impact on businesses throughout the city and county,” said former Mayor Jerry Sanders, who is now president and CEO of the chamber. “San Diego’s next leader will set the tone for how business gets done at the city and whether it will be a business-friendly environment for businesses in the next several years.”

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