Nine in 10 local chief executives said municipalities provide little support for businesses, but more than half still said Long Island is a place where companies can succeed, according to a new poll.
Ninety-two percent of CEOs participating in the first Long Island Business Leaders Survey, to be released Wednesday, said county, town and other local governments do a poor or fair job of aiding business development. Only 5 percent said municipalities do a good job and none said they do an excellent job.
However, 56 percent said the Island is either excellent or good as an “area where business can succeed”; 42 percent said the region is fair or poor in this regard.
The executives — by more than 70 percent — identified the high cost of living, traffic congestion and lack of affordable housing as impediments to business success.
The poll of 248 CEOs of companies with sales between $2.5 million and $200 million per year was conducted from October to December 2015 by the Siena College Research Institute. The Long Island Association business group paid for the survey, which has a margin of error of plus or minus 6.2 percentage points.
The executives said the area’s greatest strengths are its workforce and environment, with 62 percent and 52 percent, respectively, giving grades of excellent or good.
“Long Island is headed in the right direction, but it’s going to take time to transition from a defense- and manufacturing-oriented economy to one that’s related to technology products and services,” said Mitch Maiman, who took the survey as chief executive of Intelligent Product Solutions Inc., an engineering firm based in Hauppauge.
“If Long Island gets its act together, we can get a nice share of the technology developments in New York City,” he said in an interview.
Intelligent Product made Inc. magazine’s 2015 ranking of the 5,000 fast-growing U.S. companies. It employs about 100 people and had sales of $14 million last year.
IIT Inc. of Melville also made the Inc. list, and its CEO, Dinesh Gulati, took the Siena survey, though he’s pessimistic about the local economy.
Gulati bemoaned the loss of big employers such as Symbol Technologies and questioned whether local governments help businesses. “I have no clue what these local governments add to the economy,” he said.
IIT, with 200 employees and 2015 sales of $29 million, is a staffing company in the information technology industry.
Gulati, like 47 percent of the CEOs surveyed, said he would start his company outside New York State, if he had it to do all over again; 46 percent said they would still open in the state.
Nevertheless, the almost even split among Long Island CEOs over where to locate a company compares favorably with their counterparts upstate, where just 28 percent in a similar poll last year said they would start a business in New York State , according to Siena pollster Don Levy.
A confidence index of Long Island CEOs in the state’s economy, based on responses from the leaders’ survey, was 107.8 points. That’s “significantly higher” than a similar CEO index from upstate, to be released in coming weeks, Levy said, noting that readings above 100 mean the number of executives who are optimistic is greater than the number who are pessimistic.
“Long Island CEOs are guardedly optimistic that this year will be better than last year,” he said.
Among the Siena poll’s other highlights:
- 31 percent plan to hire workers this year while only 9 percent anticipate layoffs.
- 78 percent said health care costs are the biggest challenge facing their business.
- 90 percent of CEOs want Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and the State Legislature to reduce workers’ compensation costs, and more than 70 percent oppose raising the state minimum wage to $15 per hour.
The responses will be used by the LIA in its lobbying efforts, said Kevin Law, the group’s president. “The sentiment of CEOs is important because they are the job creators,” he said.
Thirteen percent of executives said business conditions in the region are improving while 35 percent said they are worsening.
“Every now and then we have a headline . . . about so and so company is leaving,” said Victor Fusco, managing partner of the Woodbury-based disability law firm Fusco, Brandenstein & Rada, P.C., and one of the survey participants.
“But for every one that’s leaving, there are a lot of companies that are buying buildings, leasing more space — that’s an indicator that the Long Island economy is going to do slightly better,” he said.