San Francisco (Feb. 25, 2004) -- Things are looking up according to California small business owners -- 72 percent expect 2004 to be a better year overall than 2003, according to an annual statewide survey.

The survey, conducted by Union Bank of California N.A, reported that 37 percent of respondents anticipate their staffing levels increasing in 2004, and only 10 percent of respondents laid off workers in 2003. Participants cited the top advantages of owning a business in the state as opportunities for growth (26 percent); family ties (22 percent); and the climate (16 percent).

Even so, the state’s economic recovery hasn't reached every part of the business spectrum and nearly half of the respondents said California's current economic climate is one of their key concerns. According to the survey, issues surrounding workers' compensation reform are also a chief worry among most small business owners -- 65 percent of those polled identified the rising cost of workers' compensation insurance as one of the top challenges of being a California business owner.

In addition, nearly one third of those surveyed cited rising health care costs and state and local business regulations as pressing challenges for their business.

Union Bank polled more than 1,399 California small business owners. For this survey, small businesses were defined as California companies in operation for at least two years, with annual sales under $5 million for the fiscal year 2003.

-- WebCPA staff

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