Leaders of nearly two-thirds of Solano County enterprises in a first-ever survey on the local economy said the business climate is "favorable," half plan to expand in the next five years and more than a third intend to boost capital spending.

The State of the Solano County Business Climate survey, conducted by North Bay Business Journal and Travis Credit Union, gleaned valuable information about the current and future status of firms in the region, as well as business leader concerns about problems impacting economic growth and recommendations on how the county can improve.

[caption id="attachment_82547" align="alignleft" width="360"] Half of Solano County businesses responding to the first State of the Solano Business Climate survey said they plan to expand in the next five years.[/caption]

"We wanted to take the pulse of the business community to be in a better position to work collaboratively on private-public partnering plans to support business growth and retention, overcome obstacles and move forward," said Patsy Van Ouwerkerk, president of Travis Credit Union and chairperson of Solano Economic Development Corporation.

About 100 responded to surveys sent to local businesses between July and September. Solano EDC assisted by sending the survey to members.

Sixty-five percent of respondents have 10 or fewer employees; 7.6 percent, 101--500; and 6.3 percent, 500-plus. Forty-four percent are in professional services firms, followed by 11 percent each from health care and manufacturing operations.

Five Solano industry clusters respondents believed to have the brightest future were:Health care (66.3 percent of respondents).Professional services (60 percent).Manufacturing (46.3 percent).Transportation and warehousing (46.3 percent).Construction (40 percent).

Other highlights of the survey:Half those surveyed think general business conditions will be about the same in six months, while 43 percent think they will be better. Only 6 percent think the economy will be worse.Half plan to expand their businesses in the next one to five years.Thirty-nine percent said they are planning to make capital expenditures for plant and/or physical equipment.During this same six-month future period, two-thirds expect to keep staff numbers the same, while 27 percent say they expect to increase staff and 7 percent foresee cuts.Sixty percent believe the overall business climate in Solano is "favorable" and another 4.7 percent say it is "very favorable."Forty-five percent said they are able to recruit the talent they need in Solano County, while another 25 percent said "sometimes."Twenty percent have job openings they are ready to fill right now.More than three-quarters said 62.8 percent of their employees live in Solano County.Of those who commute, 43 percent live around Sacramento, 39 percent in Yolo County also to the north, 7.1 percent in Sonoma and Marin counties, and 3.6 percent in Alameda County to the south.Thirteen percent said that "all" their revenue is generated from sales in Solano; 24 percent, "much"; 21.4 percent, "more than half"; and 18.4 percent, "less than half."

"Overall, these results indicate that there is an upbeat, positive attitude about local business conditions in Solano and cautious optimism about the future," Ms. Van Ouwerkerk said. "This data can be used as a benchmark for business performance, employer attitudes and plans."

Responses to open-ended survey questions -- such as "What is the single most important problem facing your business today?" and "How can Solano County improve its business climate?" -- will be discussed at the Impact Solano conference on Nov. 8 in Fairfield at Hilton Garden Inn in Fairfield. Details on the event are available at NorthBayBusinessJournal.com.

Followup Solano County business climate surveys are planned on a regular basis.