Updated March 27 at 10:58pm

R.I. economy – is it poised to make a dramatic move forward?

Rhode Island should prepare for a substantial boost in 2017. That's the conclusion to be drawn from the Winter 2017 PBN Business Survey. Nearly 80 percent of respondents to three questions in PBN's biannual survey of the region's …

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R.I. economy – is it poised to make a dramatic move forward?

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Rhode Island should prepare for a substantial boost in 2017.

That's the conclusion to be drawn from the Winter 2017 PBN Business Survey.

Nearly 80 percent of respondents to three questions in PBN's biannual survey of the region's business community revealed very positive results and high expectations.

n 78.1 percent said net income in 2016 was better than in 2015 (a record high).

n 77.8 percent said they expect their business to be better a year from now.

n 76.4 percent said Rhode Island's economy will improve in the next 12 months (also a record high).

Moreover, a record high percentage of companies – 58.9 percent – indicated an intention to make a hire in the next quarter. But here is where the trouble starts, because at the same time that a record number of companies want to grow their workforce, nearly the same percentage of respondents – 55.6 percent – say that a shortage of qualified workers is one of the greatest challenges to doing business in Rhode Island.

In fact, that issue is now the biggest problem Ocean State businesses face, ahead of longtime concerns taxes and government fees and bureaucracy. Interestingly, health care costs, which often have led the complaints that businesses list in the near-nine year history of the survey, have fallen dramatically as a challenge in the last 18 months.

Previous surveys have given off a cautiously optimistic vibe. Perhaps this year the region's businesses will be less worried about what could go wrong and more interested in doing what it takes to make things go right. •

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