The Provident Bank 2014 Business Barometer Reveals that NJ Business Performance, Optimism and Projected Growth Increased in 2014

New Jersey businesses performed better in 2014 than in 2013 and are more optimistic about the next 12 months, with significant growth expected in 2015, according to year-over-year survey data released today by The Provident Bank, the state’s first and oldest community bank with branches throughout central and northern regions and eastern Pennsylvania.

Specifically, Provident Bank’s 2014 Business Barometer, which surveyed more than 300 business owners of New Jersey-based businesses for the second consecutive year, found that 43% of companies feel their business performed “great” or “good” in the past 12 months, compared to only 37% in 2013. Additionally, 82% said they are either somewhat or very optimistic about the coming year, compared to 78% in 2013. Fifteen percent of respondents said they expect growth of 10% or more in the coming year, compared to 12% last year.

“As a company that’s been doing business in New Jersey for 175 years, we have seen firsthand what it takes to survive and thrive here, and we are encouraged by the responses from this year’s survey,” said Chris Martin, President and CEO of The Provident Bank. “While we know most businesses remain cautious in their optimism, the fact that many did better overall this year and that they are looking with optimism toward 2015 is heartening. We look forward to continuing our commitment to help New Jersey businesses grow profitably and help them turn their outlooks into a reality in the coming year.”

Among the 2014 Business Barometer’s other key findings are:

  • Nearly two-thirds (62%) of business owners said their workforce numbers remained the same in 2014. About the same number (63%) indicated they are not planning any workforce changes in 2015.
  • Of the 37% of companies that are planning to make workforce changes in 2015, a majority (57%) will be looking to add part-time workers, compared to 40% last year, while more than twice as many are planning to add full-time employees to their rosters this year compared to last (46% in 2014 vs. 20% in 2013).
  • Fewer companies reported struggling or poor business performance in 2014 compared to 2013 (26% vs. 31%), while about the same number of respondents said they “held their own” in the previous year (31% in 2014 and 33% in 2013).
    Among those who said business was good or great in 2014, owners most often attributed increased sales (33%) and new customers (13%) for their success.
  • More than half (51%) of owners indicated that they worked more hours in 2014 than in 2013.
  • When asked what the most important lesson learned was in the past year, 16% of respondents said “Keep up with changes in technology and marketing.” Other responses included “Retaining customers and the importance of good customer service” (11%) and “Work harder & smarter/keep pushing forward” (10%).
  • The state of the economy continues to be the most important concern among business owners (rated 4.34 on a scale of one to five), followed closely by consumer confidence (3.91) and the national political climate (3.64). Topics that increased in importance from last year included state property taxes (up from 3.53 to 3.96 this year) and cyber threats (up from 2.36 to 2.82).
  • Nearly half (45%) of respondents indicated that they conduct business banking online more than 50% of the time. Forty-four percent of respondents said that they use online bill-pay frequently.

The survey also found that giving back to the community was a priority for New Jersey businesses in 2014. More than four out of five respondents (86%) indicated that their company made some kind of charitable contribution in 2014. Specifically, 71% reported donating goods and services, while two-thirds (67%) contributed money. About one in 10 (12%) said they gave employees paid time off to volunteer. Half of the respondents said their company will likely give the same back to the community in 2015 as they did in 2014, while 22% said they plan to give more and only 2% will give less.

“Businesses understand that local nonprofits are always in need of support, whether in the form of money, donated goods and services or simply time,” Martin said. “In New Jersey, more and more companies, including Provident, are aligning themselves with organizations in their own backyard who need and appreciate the help. Provident has led the way in its charitable activity in 2014, including the creation of its ‘Commitment to Giving’ initiative, which we will be continuing in 2015.”

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