As it turns out, Obamacare is not standing in the way of hiring plans for most small and medium-size businesses in Ohio, according to a new survey.
PNC Bank’s fall survey of Ohio business owners found that 63 percent of them say the Affordable Care Act has had no effect on their staffing plans.
Still, it is serving as something of a damper, keeping job growth from being stronger, said Mekael Teshome, a PNC economist.
“Our labor market isn’t going to tank because of the Affordable Care Act, but it’s a sizable minority (of businesses) taking a guarded approach,” he said. “It boils down to how that individual business is doing.”
One business that has benefited from Obamacare is Hplex Solutions in Lewis Center.
The company provides real-estate development services for hospitals and doctors’ groups, including hospital expansions, new outpatient facilities, medical offices and specialty centers.
Obamacare is pushing hospitals to utilize lower-cost space for some services, and the result is more business for Hplex, said Dana Freudeman, one of the company’s partners who participated in the PNC survey.
“We have just hired because of new accounts we have secured out of state,” he said. “That’s our goal. We’d like to grow our business.”
The move will benefit patients who will have access to facilities that are closer and conveniences such as free parking, he said. Hospitals and other providers benefit because they gain business.
“Some of the facilities we’re replacing are old or needed updating,” he said.
Freudeman figures that business only stands to get better in coming years as baby boomers age and demand more health-related services.
“We’re going to be willing, insured or not, to do what we have to do to protect our health and fix our health when it goes south,” he said.
Overall, the biannual survey did not show results that were much different from the spring survey and from those in the fall of 2012.
The survey found 17 percent of the companies plan to add full-time employees over the next six months while 7 percent said they plan to reduce staff.
Nearly half of those surveyed, 45 percent, expect sales to increase in the next six months, and 36 percent think their profits will increase.
The business owners’ outlook on the Ohio economy has improved slightly from a year ago, with 61 percent optimistic or moderately optimistic about the prospects in coming months.
“There’s an improvement,” Teshome said. “The business outlook seems to have improved in Ohio a little, but owners are still guarded.”
Alexander Salamon, owner of an accounting firm in Westerville who also participated in the survey, said his biggest worry about the economy is jobs.
“A lot of people are looking. There just aren’t any jobs,” he said.
He said the economy in central Ohio is better than in many other cities because of the region’s diversity.
Teshome said the national economy has been hurt by a string of problems in the past several years.
“There was a deep recession, followed by a volatile and weak recovery and big policy question marks,” he said.
Health-care costs are a problem for some companies, while others doing business with government have been hurt by budget cuts and exporters might have been hurt by problems overseas, he said.
“The way to get out of this is, we need a series of wins,” Teshome said of the various problems facing business and government. “There’s no one fix to it.”
By Mark Williams - The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio (MCT)
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