Business leaders, the unemployed and underemployed all hope for a brighter tomorrow, but many of the country's analysts and local figures are already beginning to see a light at the end of a very dark tunnel.
Optimism has not been seen in excess for some time as unemployment numbers remain twice as high as just four years ago.
Financial data service company Automatic Data Processing, conducted a small business survey late last year finding that 52 percent of those business owners surveyed were expecting growth in the next 12 months. An additional 35 percent anticipated growth levels to remain relatively flat.
Frank Cipolla, owner of Common Sense Computers, saw an unexpected boost in business recently, lending renewed optimism for the new year.
"2010, I know was tight for everyone, including myself, but coming into the last two months, which are normally quite slow for me, my business started picking up again," Cipolla said. "This year I saw more activity towards the end of the year and I'm looking forward to a good 2011."
Sectors across America's economy are also expecting growth in 2011, including manufacturing, housing and automotive sales. The Institute for Supply Management recorded the 17th consecutive month of expansion in December for American manufacturing. The National Association of Realtors reported five months of gradual increase in pending home sales in November; December numbers are yet to be released. The NAR is projecting an 8 percent rise in existing home sales in 2011. Boasting its first yearly sales increase since the recession began, the automotive industry rose 11 percent in 2010.
Cipolla is an advocate for small businesses and supports the notion of shopping locally as the founder and facilitator of the North Side Business Connection, a weekly networking group. Meeting each Wednesday, the group experienced its largest crowd in months this week according to Cipolla.
"The other small businesses that I'm talking too, they're also feeling optimistic about the new year and that's a very good sign," Cipolla said. "That's what the economy is based on -- optimism. ... It's a matter of having faith in the economy that makes people want to spend money and grow their businesses more. It's not spending money needlessly, but you don't watch your wallet as close if you feel optimistic about the economy."
Also propelling the Buy Bartow mantra, Jessica Fleetwood of Fleetwood Security helped found the Bartow Business Connection with Parnick Jennings. The monthly networking organization has accounted for nearly $2 million in sales between participating businesses in the past two years.
Personally, she has seen things change within the past year. Fleetwood added that consumers began the year frugal and uncertain but, as the year progressed, sales have improved.
"I think from what we can see, things seem to be picking up. There's a more positive outlook on people wanting to purchase things and wanting to spend their money," Fleetwood said. "Things are on a positive upswing, and I think if everyone remembers to try and purchase locally first that overall everyone would have a positive upswing in their business."