Atlanta small business owners confident in the local economy

Local entrepreneurs are maintaining a strong business outlook this spring, with optimism toward all business growth indicators above the national average, according to the spring 2019 Bank of America Business Advantage Small Business Owner Report. At the same time, Atlanta entrepreneurs are less confident in the national economy, reporting concern over several economic issues and mixed views on the impact of last year’s landmark tax reform and trade tariffs.

The report, based on a semiannual survey of over 1,500 small business owners across the country and the Greater Atlanta area, reveals that:

Atlanta entrepreneurs’ business outlook for the next 12 months is strong:

  • Eighty-seven percent plan to expand their business (vs. 80 percent in fall 2018, and 20 percentage points higher than the national average of 67 percent this spring).
  • Seventy-one percent believe their revenue will increase (vs. 73 percent in fall 2018, and 12 percentage points above the national average of 59 percent this spring).
  • Thirty-seven percent plan to hire (down from 43 percent in fall 2018, but 13 percentage points above the national average of 24 percent this spring).
  • Twenty-one percent plan to apply for a loan (up from 15 percent in fall 2018, and 9 percentage points above the national average of 12 percent this spring).

While Atlanta business owners remain confident in their local economy, confidence in the national economy has declined since fall 2018. Over the next 12 months:

  • Sixty-seven percent believe their local economy will improve (vs. 69 percent in fall 2018, and 16 percentage points above the national average of 51 percent this spring).
  • Fifty-four percent believe the national economy will improve (down from 64 percent in fall 2018).
  • Top economic concerns include the political environment (64 percent), health care costs (60 percent), strength of the U.S. dollar (55 percent) and consumer spending (53 percent).

“Atlanta business owners maintain an overall positive outlook for 2019,” said Steve Turner, Atlanta small business division executive at Bank of America. “While Atlanta entrepreneurs are increasingly wary of an economic downturn, they remain confident in the local economy and are looking forward to growth and expansion in the months ahead.”

Atlanta business owners split on effects of recent policy changes, contemplate impact of climate change

Sixty-four percent of Atlanta entrepreneurs expressed concern about the current political environment, though they are divided over how major policy issues are directly impacting them. Fifty-one percent of Atlanta business owners say the new tax code has had an impact on their business — with 32 percent reporting that impact as positive. This is down from the 47 percent who anticipated a positive impact one year ago.

Regarding U.S. trade policy, 43 percent say they have been impacted by tariffs, with 21 percent reporting that impact as mixed, 11 percent reporting it as negative and 11 percent reporting it as positive. Additionally, 31 percent of Atlanta entrepreneurs say they’re concerned about climate change impacting their business.

Most Atlanta entrepreneurs take steps to protect their business

Unexpected or major economic events can transform a business in the blink of an eye. While most Atlanta entrepreneurs are taking steps to protect their businesses from potential threats such as natural disasters, an economic downturn or a cyber breach, most Atlanta entrepreneurs do not have a plan to address reputational crises or challenges.

  • Sixty-six percent have a business continuity plan in case of a flood, fire or other disaster.
  • Seventy-nine percent have taken steps to protect their business in case of an economic downturn.
  • Eighty-four percent of Atlanta business owners have taken at least one step to protect customer data from a cyber breach.
  • Only 32 percent have a plan to manage reputational issues and threats.

The power of posts — are online reviews more of a trust broker or breaker?

Customer feedback holds tremendous sway in the digital era, with online reviews serving as a powerful channel for sharing both compliments and criticisms. While 58 percent of Atlanta business owners have received a negative online review of their business, 55 percent believe positive reviews matter the most, while 45 percent say negative reviews have a greater impact.

Furthermore, 75 percent say reviews are important to the success of their business, with 84 percent reporting that positive reviews have helped generate business opportunities. Recognizing that negative reviews also have an impact, 72 percent of business owners who have received one say they respond as soon as possible to limit the reputational damage.

For a complete, in-depth look at the insights of the nation’s small business owners, read the spring 2019 Bank of America Business Advantage Small Business Owner Report. For additional insights, download the Small Business Owner Report infographic.


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