A SURVEY of North-East entrepreneurs has painted a positive picture of the regional economy.

The latest Entrepreneurs’ Forum Business Tracker Survey, covering the first quarter of 2014, showed strength in many key indicators, including sales, profits employee numbers and remuneration.

The survey conducted Acritas showed that 73 per cent of respondents reported an increase in sales year-on-year, while 19 per cent said levels had remained the same

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In export sales 49 per cent saw an increase; 58 per cent said actual profits were up, while 57 per cent reported an increase in employment

When asked about their optimism for the future of their own business, 71 per cent said they were more confident than three months previously.

Nigel Mills, chairman of the Entrepreneurs’ Forum, said: “The proportion of entrepreneurs reporting on balance an increase in overall sales, employee numbers, remuneration, prices and stock are at their highest levels since the survey began. On top of that, optimism for the second quarter is very high among entrepreneurs, with many of these indicators expected to increase.

“These are the people who run the businesses which drive the economy, and it is very heartening that both actual experiences and expectations suggest we are seeing a strong first half of 2014.

“There are still challenges, however, with the ability to fill vacancies reported to have fallen slightly on the previous quarter’s survey, and finding quality staff continues to be seen as the main barrier to growth, being highlighted by 25 per cent of entrepreneurs. Finding sales and new contracts, red tape and access to funding also came up as issues which continue to be faced by members surveyed.

“However, the overall picture painted by North-East entrepreneurs is a good one, and we have good reason to push forward with optimism.”