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Small Business Owners More Confident This Year, Report Says

Small business owners, particularly in the southern part of San Diego County, and general contractors are more confident in their outlook this year than two years ago, the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce reported today.

The conclusions are part of the chamber's 2012 Small Business Outlook, in which businesses in various sectors around the region were surveyed by Competitive Edge Research. The report's index ranges from 200, in which all business owners are fully confident in every metric, to minus 200, in which they are negative about everything.

Confidence among business owners in Chula Vista, National City and southern San Diego was at 45.6 on the index, compared to 17 in a similar report in 2010. The next highest area was the East County, at 30.7.

The chamber reported that general contractors across the county have a confidence level of 40.8, compared to a negative-8.3 two years ago.

"It's important to keep our finger on the pulse of small businesses because they play a crucial role in our overall regional economy,'' said Ruben Barrales, the chamber's president and CEO. "A positive shift in sentiment is encouraging and we want to continue supporting San Diego's small businesses to help them grow and thrive.''

A major drop was seen in the number of firms offering health care to their workers. In 2010, 68 percent of small businesses offered coverage to their employees, while this year the figure was 28 percent.

According to the report, business owners said health coverage was too expensive, or their employees had made other arrangements. Companies that offered health care had a confidence index level of 40.1, while those not offering coverage were at 21.6.

The study was a compilation of interviews of executives at 501 businesses in San Diego County with 50 or fewer employees on April 16 and 17.

They were questioned about revenue, hiring, spending on business development and use of credit, among other topics.

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