Chamber survey: Company profits grew in 2018

A survey of 160 businesses conducted by the Chamber of Commerce found that most of them increased their profits last year.

According to the survey, about 55 percent of the respondents said their profits increased in 2018, while 15 percent recorded losses and 30 percent remained flat.

Revenue for roughly two-thirds of the businesses increased, but so did costs, according to the survey, which was administered to companies – most of them with 15 or fewer employees – in the tourism, financial services, construction, retail and services industries.

Increased costs was the primary concern reported in the survey.

“I have spoken to several members and have found that the cost of living is amongst the biggest concerns of business owners and management,” Chamber President Chris Kirkconnell said at the organization’s legislative luncheon last Thursday. “The rapidly increasing cost of housing and the lack of affordable housing developments in the pipeline are of concern and may be one of the largest threats to sustained growth in our economy.”

Data suggest the concern over rising prices is valid. The inflation rate also averaged four percent through June 2018, the highest half-year increase since June 2005 – though Premier Alden McLaughlin noted that the current price levels are only 2.5 percent higher than in September 2014.

Nevertheless, Mr. McLaughlin said his government is committed to keeping measures in place that put downward pressure on prices, but that government’s tools are limited.

“As an example, one of the most significant recent price increases was a jump in electricity prices – but remember, this Government has maintained the significant fuel duty reductions brought in by my last Administration that are still helping keep utility costs down,” he said at the legislative luncheon. “We also continued reductions on various import duties to licensed retailers to help lower prices.”

Another major issue cited by the survey respondents was government efficiency and regulation.

“The survey also asked our members for their experience in using key government departments and authorities,” Mr. Kirkconnell said. “Any of those that have embraced online services and payment processes to reduce the level of bureaucracy and therefore improve the customer experience ended up receiving extremely positive responses.

“I cannot emphasize strongly enough how important these types of improvements are or how much of an impact streamlining these government functions have been, not only to the business community but to everyday life and the community as whole.”