small business ownersBy MARY PATRICK

In a sign of an improving economic outlook, recent surveys have found that small business owners had increased optimism about the future in July and August.

Also, a Wall Street Journal/Vistage Small Business CEO survey found that the confidence index had surged to a high of 104.2 in August after reaching 102.2 in July. In August 2012, the number was only 93.7.

The survey of 678 small business owners found that 73% expected their revenues to increase next year while 54% project that profits will increase, according to the Wall Street Journal. Those are the highest numbers since the report began in June 2012.

Meanwhile, a small-business optimism index conducted by Wells Fargo and Gallup showed that business confidence had reached the highest level since 2008. The National Federal of Independent Business also conducted a survey in August and found that small business owners reported their fourth-highest optimism since December 2007.

“We’re bigger than we’ve ever been and I’m planning to be pretty bullish on things,” said Jim Houser, owner of Hawthorne Auto Clinic Inc. in Portland, Oregon, to the Wall Street Journal.

While the amount of repair work ordered by customers had dropped during the recession, Houser said the amount spent per customer has now increased to reach pre-recession levels.

Houser said he attributes the increased spending to the fact that people are less concerned now that they will lose their jobs.

“They’re more willing to take care of their cars and buy things like tires and shock absorbers,” Houser told the Journal.

In Florida, the owner of Winter Park’s Luxury Trips LLC said that his customer base did not grow more than 15% in the years between 2008 and 2010. But, Sunit Sanghrajka told the Wall Street Journal his business increased 73% last year.

Luxury Trips handles trip arrangements for high-end customers willing to spend $15,000 or more for a trip to placers such as Africa. Asia and Latin America. Sanghrajka said he expects sales to double in 2013.

“I’ve been telling my group that good times are ahead,” Sanghrajka told the Journal.

Despite the survey numbers, not everyone agrees that the economic picture is improving for small business. For example, Craig Everett, a finance professor at Pepperdine University, told that Journal that if there was that much optimism among small businesses then “we would see more plans for growth.”

Unemployment also continues to hover around 7% while gross domestic product growth continues to lag behind the average of 3.5%.

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