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Small Business Owners Still Glum, But Planning to Hire

business-hiring.jpgThe gloom is still out there for small business owners. But they've hit the point where they're saying, "What the heck -- I'm going to start hiring and investing in my business anyway," a new American Express Business Monitor survey shows.

AmEx surveys more than 700 small-business owners twice a year to gauge their feelings about the business climate. This time, nearly half say they're making capital investments in their business, and 28 percent have plans to hire. Both measures were markedly higher than in the survey last fall. Most of that planned hiring is part-time, though, with 18 percent now saying they're planning some temp hires.

Yet owners continue to fret about the economy. The current climate is negatively affecting their prospects, 29 percent of respondents said, up from 24 percent. The forecast was also trending down, with just 18 percent of entrepreneurs reporting the economy is offering growing opportunity for them, down from 26 percent who felt bullish on the future last fall.

Other highlights:

• Generation Y entrepreneurs are most optimistic about their business prospects and the economy of any age group.

• If entrepreneurs are spending, they're spending on technology -- at 37 percent, that was the largest category of planned spending business owners identified.

• More than half of firms the owner described as "growing" said they have enough revenue for their working cpaital needs. Two-thirds of these growth firms said the economy isn't affecting their ability to invest in their companies. By contrast, just 13 percent of companies self-described as a "sinking ship" have enough cash flow to cover their nut.

• Some industries are faring better -- just over half of growing companies are in business and personal services. Firms described as sinking ships or "staying afloat" are twice as likely to be retailers, and even more struggling companies are in construction.

• Four in ten companies reported the economy has kept them from investing in marketing and sales efforts.

Translation: the marketing field is less crowded now. It's really a great time to be out there marketing your business -- a chance to jump ahead while others are dithering.

What's your business outlook? Is the economy getting rougher, or is there finally a light at the end of this tunnel? Leave a comment and let us know whether you agree with AmEx's trend report.

Carol Tice, a freelance writer, is chief executive of TiceWrites Inc. in Bainbridge Island, Wash. She blogs about freelance writing at Make a Living Writing. Email her at carol@caroltice.com.

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