A divided economy: Ottawa tech firms’ confidence soars as retail falls

The confidence of Ottawa business leaders has slipped slightly over the past year, but remains strongly positive as many local companies record higher profits and prepare to recruit new employees.

The findings are contained in the 2018 Ottawa Business Growth Survey, which was released Wednesday by OBJ, the Ottawa Chamber of Commerce and Welch LLP. Now in its fourth year, the Ottawa Business Growth Survey tracks the business outlook and financial performance of the local business community – as well as trends in real estate, tourism and public policy – through hundreds of surveys.

Responses are also used to calculate the Ottawa business confidence index, a metric that illustrates how local businesspeople feel about their company’s outlook and market prospects.

Locally, business confidence remains positive despite a modest decline from 2017.

Ottawa business confidence index
The business confidence index is a composite calculation based on the responses to several of the questions in the Ottawa Business Growth Survey. The scale ranges from zero to 200, with a score of 100 representing a neutral position. A score higher than 100 is positive, while a score lower than 100 is negative.

The Ottawa business confidence index fell to its lowest level in three years, but remains higher than the levels recorded between 2013 and 2015.

“The last two years have been quite positive. This is just a (slight) softening,” says David Coletto, the CEO of Abacus Data. The local firm compiled and analyzed the research in the Ottawa Business Growth Survey.

This year’s decline was largely driven by weakening confidence in the retail and hospitality sectors that failed to offset a sharp increase among tech firms.
Coletto says the softness in retail and hospitality industries can be explained, in part, by increases in minimum wage.

Key findings

Other results of the Ottawa Business Growth Survey include:

  • More than two in five respondents say their organization plans to recruit new employees over the next year;

  • 51 per cent of businesses said their net income was higher last year than in 2016;

  • The cost of doing business is perceived to be getting worse;

  • Nearly one-third of respondents say they plan to lease or buy bigger commercial space for their business;

  • Attracting new customers and recruiting skilled workers are among the most important issues facing local businesses;

  • The rising minimum wage is having a negative impact on more than two in five local businesses;

  • 51 per cent of respondents approve of Mayor Jim Watson’s performance.

    Ottawa Business Growth Survey