Study shows employment, profit increases expected in 2018

PELHAM – The Greater Shelby County Chamber of Commerce hosted its 37th Annual Meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 31, at the Pelham Civic Complex. During the luncheon, the results from the 2018 Business Outlook Survey were shared and the chamber’s 2018 Chamber Chair was named.

Paul Rogers, the 2017 Chamber Chair, passed the gavel on to Joe Meads, owner of Sain Associates.

“I’ve been involved with the chamber for several years and it’s a privilege to serve as the chamber chair for this year,” Meads said. “The future is bright and the best is yet to come.”

Meads announced that the chamber’s 2018 Business Plan has been completed. The five-page plan outlines the chamber’s intentions to focus on existing business growth, career readiness, plans to expand programs and bringing in new businesses. He also announced the 2018 Board of Directors and work group chairs.

Stephen Craft, dean and professor of business for the University of Montevallo’s Stephens College of Business, shared the results from the 2018 Business Outlook Survey. The survey was completed in partnership with the Stephens College of Business and the GSCCC.

Craft said the data collected shows that Shelby County businesses “have some pretty high expectations for 2018.”

Data was collected through an online questionnaire completed by 200 GSCCC members and affiliates. Of the respondents, 63 percent have less than 50 full-time employees and 11 percent employ more than 500 full-time employees.

“Business in Shelby County is very strong,” Craft said. “Employment levels are good. The unemployment rate is low nationwide and even better in Shelby County.”

The data showed that 92 percent of respondents expect their revenues to increase in 2018, compared to 82 percent in 2017 and 79 percent in 2016. Only 3 percent expected revenues to shrink.

More than half of the businesses said they expect full-time employment to increase slightly or significantly and only 3.5 percent said they expect full-time employment to decrease.

When asked what factors impact job creation, respondents said difficulty finding skilled and experienced workers and growth in sales and demand have the most significant impacts. Craft said businesses are in need of employees with higher skill levels.

When it comes to expenses, 69 percent of businesses expect expenses to remain the same or increase slightly, compared to 83 percent in 2017. Only 1 percent expect expenses to increase significantly.

However, businesses did report that they expect the debt to increase this year. Twenty-four percent of respondents said they expect an increase in debt, compared to 14 percent last year. The data showed that 76 percent expect their debt to remain the same or decrease slightly, compared to 86 percent last year.

Nationwide, there’s an economic boom, which is reflected in Shelby County, Craft said. The current economic boom is the third longest in U.S. history.

The longest period of expansion was from 1991 to 2001, followed by a stretch from 1961 to 1969 and in third place is the stretch from 2009 to present day. Craft said the current period of expansion has a good shot at exceeding the longest stretch and taking the No. 1 spot.