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Survey: Economy tough for small LI firms

Long Island's economy remains a tough environment for many small enterprises, a new survey says, but owners of these businesses also see stability in the future.

They also are generally happy to be their own boss. "I was surprised by the positive attitude of business owners toward owning a small business, even in this tough economic climate," said Leonie Huddy, director of the Stony Brook University Center for Survey Research, which conducted the survey. It was sponsored by Bethpage Federal Credit Union. Of the small-business owners surveyed, "almost 90 percent said they were satisfied with the decision to own a business."

The phone survey of 612 Long Island small-business executives in the last quarter of 2011 focused on businesses with annual revenues of less than $10 million, touching on issues such as finances and the effects of running a business on their personal lives. The study was presented Thursday at the Long Island Association's first 2012 Small Business Committee meeting in Melville.

Many of the results resonated with the attendees, including small-business entrepreneurs and those servicing them. The economic challenges are improving but are still significant, some said. In the survey, 40 percent of the participants rated the current economic conditions on Long Island as fairly bad, and 38 percent called them very bad.

A significant portion of the business owners surveyed -- 22 percent -- said it is somewhat or very likely they will leave Long Island. When asked why, half mentioned the costs of doing business and living here.

But some members said another key finding of the study, that small businesses continue to have difficulty accessing credit, may be improving.

"We are seeing a big turnaround on credit for businesses that qualify," said Lucille Wesnofske, regional director of the Small Business Development Center at Farmingdale State College.

"I think there is more credit available than people perceive," said Kirk Kordeleski, LIA chairman and chief executive of Bethpage Federal, who presented the survey results.

The study offered some signs of stability. Seventy-nine percent of business executives surveyed expected their sales to stay the same or increase this year.

The survey showed a small improvement in hiring prospects. Last year 11 percent of the businesses increased their employment and 15 percent decreased it. This year 16 percent said they plan to hire more employees and 7 percent said they would trim staff.

And as for relations at home, 58 percent said running their own business had a positive effect on marriage and family life.

Ernie Canadeo, president of The EGC Group, a Melville ad and marketing firm, has seen some signs of the tide turning in the last three months. "One of the things that small businesses tend to do is pull back in things like marketing" during a downturn, he said. Now "some small businesses are starting to invest in [it]."


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