JTEDs Rise in Importance

Excerpt from Arziona Daily Star article.

Nearly 40 percent of small businesses in a new statewide survey said they expect the economy to be better a year from now, while about half expect their own companies to grow, says the Arizona Small Business Association.

Despite that cautious optimism, 44 percent of survey respondents said they aren’t planning to add employees in 2012, and 27 percent aren’t sure, the 11,000- member business group said.

Economic uncertainty, lower consumer spending and the cost of health insurance were the three most common challenges cited by the survey respondents.

Tax reform was cited as the best way to expand economic opportunities by 45 percent of those surveyed, followed by increasing the education level of the workforce and providing tax incentives for businesses.

Most survey respondents (57 percent) said K-12 education should be the main focus of efforts to develop an educated workforce, followed by technical education such as Joint Technical Education District (JTED) programs (30 percent), universities (24 percent) and community colleges (22 percent).

Lawmakers last year slashed the state’s K-12 school budgets by $183 million. JTED programs took a $29 million hit when the Legislature voted to stop funding for freshmen, cutting the Pima County program about 43 percent.

Health-care costs remain a major concern, prompting small businesses to hold off on expansion, freeze pay or lay off workers, according to the survey.

The survey, released with the Arizona Small Business Association’s legislative agenda, has a margin of error of plus or minus 6 percentage points, the group said. The total number of respondents wasn’t immediately available, though 16 percent responded to the survey.

ASBA’s legislative agenda includes reducing the complexity and reporting requirements of Arizona’s sales tax; expediting business permitting and licensing practices; and passing workers’ compensation laws that protect the rights of employers.

To download a PDF file with complete results from the Arizona Small Business Association, go to www.asba.com/survey.