Local mood shaky to end 2013

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As we entered the final week of 2013, we decided to use our weekly online poll to gauge how readers felt about the previous 12 months.

Our simple question was this: What’s your general assessment of 2013 from a local business perspective?

We offered four choices for answers, ranging from highly positive to upbeat, not so good and discouraging. The general assumption was that we wouldn’t see many “highly positive” responses, unless we encountered obvious ballot-stuffing tactics (which didn’t materialize). Likewise, our expectation was that very few would pick the “discouraging” option, if only because the Colorado Springs area endured another horrific fire and damaging floods, and the year ended with state-level approval of the City for Champions package.

So we guessed that the top answers would be close between “upbeat” and “not so good,” which would mean concluding that our business community ended 2013 with understandably mixed emotions about the year as a whole.

We were mistaken, to say the least. As expected, there was no traction for the “highly positive” group, which hovered around 7-8 percent. But that’s where the predictability ended.

Everyone else divided fairly evenly among the other three responses, ranging from 28-33 percent.

But that means as many as 65 percent chose a negative answer, to just 35 percent positive. Granted, the number of respondents was down because of the holiday, but the pattern still followed other polls in which early voting trends have held steady (except when groups have organized to influence an outcome).

In other words, this last poll of 2013 doesn’t suggest a wave of high optimism on the local business scene. For the most part, the prevailing mood appears to be less than satisfied about the year just ended.

Based on our interactions with people throughout the business community, we could list some reasons that stand out:

• Continuing concern about Obamacare, and how it will impact small businesses.

• Uncertainty over how the federal budget, and the indecisive Congress, will affect the military and defense contractors.

• So much divisiveness in local governments, which can’t help economic development efforts.

• Apprehension over the area’s obvious need to tackle stormwater, with no consensus on a unified approach.

• Rising fears that the Pikes Peak region will endure more fires and floods in years to come.

Obviously, some could add to that list, while others might insist that the local economy still is on a slow but steady upward path, and those folks would tell you that’s the most realistic way to analyze where we are to start 2014.

All that aside, local sales tax collections have remained ahead of 2012, and new car registrations have continued their year-long torrid pace, rising nearly 29 percent in November over that same month a year ago.

That tells us local people had more money to spend in 2013, which is always a positive sign.

Yet, we appear to have a strong contingent of folks who still aren’t convinced. Our guess is, they simply are refusing to be too upbeat until they see what 2014 brings.