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Hurricane Sandy Didn’t Damper Shore Business Outlook

Ilya Hemlin Townsquare Media NJ

The shore business community isn’t letting Hurricane Sandy damper it’s expectations for 2013.

The results of the Monmouth Ocean Development Council’s annual Business Outlook Survey, which gauges the pulse of the local business community for the upcoming year, was interrupted by Hurricane Sandy.

Instead of scrapping the entire thing, Stephen Reed, shareholder for the CPA and consulting firm Cowan Gunteski & Co and person spearheading the economic survey, decided to issue another set of question after the storm and compare them to the previous results.

During the MODC’s February meeting at the Jumping Brook Country Club in Neptune, Reed presented his results, which surprisingly to many didn’t show the storm having a large effect on the goals for 2013. In fact, there was a general mood of optimism before the storm which Reed says didn’t dramatically change afterwards.
• Forty-nine percent said business conditions in Monmouth and Ocean counties in 2013 would be the same as last year; 44 percent said they would be better; and 7 percent said they would be worse.
• Sixty-five percent said employment would remain the same; 31 percent expect to hire; and 4 percent expect to downsize.
• 84 percent expect sales to increase; 14 percent expect them to stay the same; and 2 percent expect them to decline.
After several years of negative business outlooks, Reed attributes the resiliency of the shore businesses in helping them stay positive after the storm.

“People here especially in Monmouth and Ocean County tend to be more optimistic than they are in the other areas of the state.”

Though there is decidedly more optimism for 2013 than 2012, many businesses are not planning on making major moves in terms of hiring or expansion. Reed notes much of that is because there is apprehension about 2014 when many of the taxes and penalties for the Affordable Health Care Act would go into effect.

“How that’s going to impact them, what potential costs are going to incur through that. They’re also concerned about this fiscal cliff we keep hearing a lot about and is that going to make taxes increase significantly. That’s why businesses are holding on to their cash and not making any major financial commitments just yet.”

He adds 2014 will be a “tell-tale” year in terms of hiring and business spending.

While Sandy didn’t seem to sway many businesses, tourism and recreation based businesses could feel the effects in the long term. Reed notes already Cape May and Atlantic County (which weren’t hit badly by the storm) are advertising in Monmouth and Ocean in hopes of attracting visitors.

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