check mark on a survey box

Survey: Vermont Businesses Rank Finding Employees and Property Taxes Top Concerns; More Optimism for U.S. Economy Than VT Economy

Source: Davis & Hodgdon

Nearly 100 Vermont businesses from various industries completed the 2024 annual economic survey assessing the outlook of Vermont’s small- to medium-sized businesses. The survey, presented by VTTA member Davis and Hodgdon CPAs and the Vermont Chamber of Commerce, demonstrated that business owners are more optimistic about the U.S. economy than they are about the Vermont economy. This is the opposite of attitudes displayed in survey results from the same timeframe in 2023.

When asked to identify and rank the top issues facing their business in 2024, owners ranked “finding qualified employees” as their biggest issue (37%) and property taxes second (17%). The biggest factors for those that identified staffing as a challenge for their business, included the lack of candidates, lack of housing within the state, and their inability to offer competitive wages due to limited profitability.

Table showing Davis & Hodgdon Vermont business survey results

Respondents also identified and ranked changes made to their business model to adjust to post-pandemic circumstances. While most identified the adoption of more digital solutions for operations and sales (25%) as the biggest change, many (24%) said that identifying new avenues of revenue was their biggest adjustment. Also noteworthy is that the need to downsize by reducing staffing and/or hours was ranked first by 18% of respondents as their most significant post-pandemic adjustment.

More than half (54%) expect their sales to increase in 2024, while 39% expect to increase spending, and 30% plan to hire additional staff within the next six months. 7% of respondents said that they plan to decrease staffing while most (60%) are not planning to make any changes.

Only 24% feel that the Vermont economy is improving while 37% think that the U.S. economy is improving. Additionally, 43% think that the Vermont economy is in decline versus the 29% who think that the U.S. economy is in decline. This contrasts with the 2023 survey that found more than half (55%) of respondents feel that the U.S. economy is in decline in contrast to the 36% who feel the same way about the Vermont economy.

Each year respondents are asked to identify one key business economic issue that they want to see addressed by the state legislature in the current year. Affordable housing was overwhelmingly identified as the issue that business owners want to see addressed in 2024. “The lack of affordable housing is crushing our economy,” noted one respondent. Other top issues were taxation and overregulation, as well as healthcare and insurance issues.

“Business owners continue to struggle in their search for qualified staff which is directly related to the lack of affordable housing and general cost of living in Vermont,” said Bret Hodgdon, managing partner of Davis & Hodgdon Associates. “This combined with frustration that the current legislature has done so little to address the issue is very evident within this year’s survey results.”

“Business vitality is crucial to the well-being of all Vermonters,” stated Betsy Bishop, President of the Vermont Chamber of Commerce. “This data reflects what we hear from businesses every day, which is that workforce recruitment and retention, and the interconnected issues of housing and taxation, need immediate strategic action to ensure a viable future for our state.”

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