Business and industry leaders in Ocean and Monmouth Counties are cautiously optimistic about what this year holds according to the 2014 Business Outlook Survey conducted by the Monmouth-Ocean Development Council

Joe Raedle, Getty Images

When comparing the survey's figures with similar ones for the entire state, business leaders in Monmouth and Ocean Counties have the most positive outlook overall.  "Fifty-two percent expect things to be better and that's actually up from 44 percent last year.   Thirty-nine percent expect things to be the same and only 9 percent expect things to get worse," said Stephen Reed, the managing director of the Monmouth County Office of Cowan, Gunteski & Co.

Most companies said they expect to increase their employment levels in 2014.  Industries expecting to increase employment include the service industry, professional services and healthcare and technology industries.  "Overall, these results are the most optimistic we've seen in several years regarding anticipated employment," Reed said.

The study also shows a trend for an increase in sales while purchases remain relatively the same. "So as a result, we see a corresponding increase in the company's profits, which is another indicator that things have been turning around," Reed said.

The study showed nonprofits appear to be the hardest hit due to an increase in their costs, but a decrease in their overall revenues.  For the first time in the survey, nonprofits said that they will be reducing the services they offer.

The survey also took a look at the biggest concerns facing business leaders in Monmouth and Ocean Counties.  Seventy-nine percent are worried about health insurance costs and the cost of doing business.  Sixty-two percent are worried about property and state taxes.

Overall, respondents showed a great deal of appreciation for the quality of life in the bi-county region. "Seventy-eight percent feel the quality of life is better in Monmouth and Ocean Counties as compared to other counties. They also felt that way about our public school system, workforce and economic development," Reed said.

But they do have some concerns. "They also felt that things may have gotten a little worst when it comes to our environmental issues and how we're handling them when it comes to our regulatory issues," said Reed.