As 2003 drew to a close, The Ohio Society of Certified Public Accountants launched a new initiative to take stock of Ohio's business and economic climate, and to use the unique insights CPAs possess to forecast what lies ahead in the coming year.
More than 700 of Ohio's CPA business leaders responded to the State of Ohio Business Poll. They included members of The Ohio Society of CPAs who hold senior financial positions inside Ohio businesses, as well as partners in CPA firms.
The poll asked CPAs to predict the economic course in 2004, based on their unique perspectives. After all, who better to assess Ohio's economic health than the CPAs who help develop financial insights and make key business decisions every day for the business community in Ohio?
The results of this new survey concur with other positive signs that point to an economic recovery in Ohio this year. Overall, the State of Ohio Business Poll findings contain good news for Ohio and the businesses that drive Ohio's economic engine. The findings show that Ohio CPAs are optimistic that businesses are starting to reinvest in Ohio.
But the responses also hold potential warnings about the future of doing business in Ohio. Several of the State of Ohio Business Poll findings point to potential obstacles in improving the state's economy in 2004.
The good news
More than half of the CPAs (51 percent) surveyed forecast increased capital investments in Ohio, while 41 percent anticipate capital investment will remain consistent with 2003 levels.
Forty-two percent predict expansion in Ohio's job market. Forty-four percent predict little change, but only 13 percent believe fewer jobs will be available for Ohioans in 2004.
Together, these findings show that, at the very least, investments in Ohio businesses and the job market are not expected to get any worse than in 2003. Quite the contrary; our member CPAs by-and-large believe businesses are starting to reinvest and more jobs will be created in our state.
Members of The Ohio Society of CPAs also identified health care as the most likely growth industry in the year ahead, and named construction (both commercial and residential), technology and service industries as other potential growth areas.
The not-so-good news
The State of Ohio Business Poll results contain some concerns about the business environment in Ohio.
The survey found that only 20 percent of CPAs describe the overall direction of Ohio's business climate in positive terms, and three-quarters say Ohio's government and regulatory climate need improvements. Only 1 percent rated the overall Ohio business climate as excellent. Local governments across the state got similar marks for their government and regulatory climates.
Several factors are still preventing Ohio businesses from reaching their full growth potential. The State of Ohio Business Poll results indicate a need for reforms on taxes, regulations on businesses and excessive litigation awards. Our state government leaders also need to address the cost of doing business in Ohio, especially in creating municipal tax uniformity.
The Ohio Society of CPAs strongly believes there is still work to be done that could make the tax reporting and compliance burden on Ohio businesses easier to manage.
With challenges come opportunities. Our nation is prepared to turn the corner from a period marked by uncertainty and difficult economic times. Now more than ever, it is incumbent upon all of us in the Ohio business community to exercise creativity and ingenuity to make the positive outlook expressed in the State of Ohio Business Poll a reality.
Michael R. Dickson, CPA is chairman of The Ohio Society of CPAs Executive Board and is president of Business Technology Group, LLC in Worthington. For more information about the State of Ohio Business Poll, visit The Ohio Society of CPAs Web site at www.ohioscpa.com, or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.