RICHMOND — There's continued optimism among East Central Indiana businesses about the region's business climate. At least according to an Indiana University East survey.

The school's Business and Economic Research Center in the School of Business and Economics this week reported results from its third annual East-Central Indiana Business Survey. Survey questions were sent to 616 business leaders in Wayne, Fayette, Henry, Randolph and Union counties, and 96 business owners and managers participated, including 62 from Wayne County.

The results indicated an uptick in business production and activity during 2018, continuing a trend from 2017; however, concerns about business costs led to a smaller percentage of businesses anticipating increased profits during 2019.

Overall, 65 percent of the businesses responded that they had increased their production or activity during 2018, more than 90 percent maintained or increased work force and 85 percent maintained or increased profits. Less than 6 percent indicated they decreased the capital investments.

In Wayne County, 71 percent of the 62 businesses boosted production or activity, compared to about 7 percent reporting a decrease. Employment level was maintained (52 percent) or increased (37 percent) for 89 percent of the county businesses responding. More than 80 percent of the businesses increased or maintained their profitability, while just 5 percent reduced capital investment.

The productivity outlook remained strong for 2019 for surveyed businesses with just 4 percent indicating they would reduce production or activity and 4 percent expecting to reduce capital investment. More than 90 percent responded they would maintain or increase employment. Although 66 percent expected business costs to rise this year, 52 percent still expected increased profits.

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