The 2018 Southland business survey results highlight growing regional confidence and the continued emergence of digital technology, while recruitment and retention of staff remains a challenge.

This year’s business survey was the fifth to be conducted by Venture Southland since 2014 with 350 businesses participating from April 10 – May 10, 2018.

Venture Southland business services manager Alistair Adam said businesses were surveyed on a wide range of topics to determine overall business confidence levels.

Venture Southland Business services manager Alistair Adam

“The results have shown business confidence remains strong in Southland and that labour market initiatives led by Venture Southland are having a positive impact,” Adam said.

The survey revealed 74% of businesses are positive about the Southland economy and business environment, and 84% are positive about their own business.

Similar to 2017, business performance in sales remains strong with 91% of businesses experiencing either steady or increased sales, an 11% increase from 2016.

Adam said for the first time since the Southland Business Survey began in 2014 Southland businesses were reporting employing more people than in the previous year.

“This year, 32% of businesses reported employing more people which, when compared to 24% in 2014, shows significant growth,” Adam said.

Adam said the establishment of Venture Southland’s labour market team, and the ongoing work of Southland Youth Futures has made significant contributions to this.

“For the third year in a row, more businesses are adapting their employment practices to recruit young people, women and working to retain older people in the workforce,” Adam said.

The survey highlighted that recruitment and retention of staff continues to be a significant issue for businesses, with 50% of businesses having challenges recruiting the right staff.

The quality of broadband and mobile services remains a concern for Southland businesses with a third of survey participants expecting the quality of communications services to impact on their business within the next three years.

Despite this concern, Adam said it was pleasing to see 63% of businesses having implemented a new form of digital technology, up from 47% in 2017.

Adam said the findings of the survey will guide the direction of Venture Southland services, particulary in regards to labour market initiatives and advocating for improved digital connectivity.

Findings of the survey are shared with Councils, local businesses and government departments to assist with their planning and communications around key business concerns.