The second annual North Bay Business Journal-Summit State Bank Business Climate Survey shows an improving outlook for Sonoma County business.

The survey, conducted in August and September using the Business Journal’s data base of businesses, was completed by 115 businesses ranging in size from one employee to more than 1,000.

Asked about the outlook for the economy over the next six months, 58 percent expected conditions to be better, up 5 percent from 2013. Only 3 percent expected conditions to worsen.

The outlook for hiring was strong as well, with 54 percent saying they would increase staff, up 9 percent from 2013. Only 1 percent said they would be decreasing staff.

Asked how they would rank the overall business climate, 77 percent said it was either favorable or very favorable, up 8 percent from 2013. Seventy percent of respondents said they expected to expand their business in Sonoma in the next one to five years, up 6 percent.

“While it is no secret that it is challenging and often expensive to establish or expand a business in Sonoma County, businesses obviously like being in this beautiful corner of the world,” said Business Journal Publisher Brad Bollinger.

Asked to identify the top five industries they believe have the brightest future in Sonoma County, nearly eight in 10 respondents again chose leisure and hospitality as No. 1, followed by health care, 71 percent and professional services with 63 percent.

“These findings on leisure and hospitality just confirm that people want to visit Sonoma County as much as people want to live and thrive here,” Mr. Bollinger said. “The two are more strongly linked than ever.”

                                                                                                            --The Business Journal