A business trade group recently reported growing confidence in the state’s economy, saying that as a group, small businesses are optimistic about the coming year.
But local opinions on future economic prospects are mixed, particularly after Hurricane Sandy, which hammered the casino and tourism industries in South Jersey.
“Every year is worse than the year before,” Atlantic City Boardwalk store merchant Asif Pasha said.
His and other businesses have been affected by the dropoff in resort visitors due to increasing competition from nearby casinos. The visitation decline, which has eroded Atlantic City’s revenues since 2006, was made worse by Sandy, which caused the casino industry to shut down for five days at the end of October.
“Sandy affected the whole month,” Pasha said.
But while Sandy has negatively affected some businesses, the New Jersey Business and Industry Association, which released the results of its annual statewide fall survey of 1,470 small businesses, said the impact was likely for the short-term.
The trade group, which is in its 54th year of conducting the survey, reported that the overall outlook for the economy has improved, with 29 percent of survey participants expecting state economic conditions to improve in the first six months of next year, compared with 25 percent that expect deteriorating conditions and the rest that see no or little change.
The survey, which was done one month before Sandy struck, also said 41 percent of companies reporting higher sales revenue in 2012 compared with 35 percent.
For other businesses in South Jersey, the storm may have had a positive effect, creating more work for landscapers, contractors and other building trade workers, which in turn gave them more disposable income, said Dennis Roberts, owner of the Bellevue Tavern in Middle Township, Cape May County.
“Sandy was actually — for a lot of businesses in the southern part — positive,” he said. “Just in the last month, things have picked up.”
Even in the casino industry, while some officials expect a dropoff in revenue to continue through the first quarter of next year, they said the “Do AC” marketing campaign, growth in the industry’s nongambling offerings and other recent efforts to expand the market gave them hope for next year.
“In the face of ongoing negative results, I do feel we were seeing some positive momentum,” said Tony Rodio, president of Tropicana Casino and Resort and the Casino Association of New Jersey. “I wouldn’t be working here if I didn’t believe in Atlantic City. I feel Atlantic City is going to come through this.”
The pace of new casinos opening in states around New Jersey has slowed, which will bring stability to the market, officials said. A new casino is being planned for nearby Philadelphia, which will affect Atlantic City, but it also will affect casinos in other parts of Pennsylvania, Delaware and Maryland, Rodio said.
“Everybody will feel the pain, and it really won’t be all on Atlantic City,” he said.
Contact Hoa Nguyen: