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Many German businesses in Pittsburgh are optimistic amid slowdown, survey shows

| Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2012, 12:01 a.m.

A majority of members of the German American Business Circle of Pittsburgh are optimistic about the future of their businesses and expect their profits to increase this year over last year.

But the percentage of positive respondents to many questions in an annual survey by the German American Business Circle of Pittsburgh declined this year compared to last year.

For example, 42.9 percent of businesses said they expect the size of their workforce to increase by the end of this year, down from 55.2 percent last year.

And 71.4 percent said they are optimistic when it comes to the outlook for their business, which was down from 77.3 percent last year.

The German American Business Circle will release its annual economic outlook survey results during a meeting on Wednesday in Hofbrauhaus Pittsburgh at the SouthSide Works. Allegheny Conference CEO Dennis Yablonsky will deliver the meeting's keynote speech on the regional economy.

Germany is Western Pennsylvania's largest foreign investor, with 70 companies here who employ 11,000 people. Pittsburgh-area companies export about $500 million in products and services to Germany each year.

Tony Pauly, vice president and general manager of Ventana USA, a vinyl manufacturer for window and door manufacturers in Export that is active in the German Circle, said he is “cautiously optimistic” about his business in 2013.

“We are depending on how strong the housing market is going to come back,” Pauly said. “We see a slight uptick in business compared to 12 months ago.”

Pauly said he expects sales next year to increase by 5 percent.

“My customers, when I talk about them about the forecasting for 2013, there's an improved confidence that next year will be better,” he said.

Of the survey's 109 respondents, 59.3 percent said they expect customer demand to increase this year, but that was down from last year's survey when 61.5 percent of respondents said they expected an increase.

Joe Peilert, CEO of Veka Inc., a vinyl extrusion company in Fombell, Beaver County, said responses varied depending on industry.

“If you're active here and relying on Europe or China, there's a slowdown,” Peilert said.

Like Pauly, Peilert sees housing picking up in 2013 and is feeling “very optimistic” about Veka's business.

One area that garnered more positive responses this year over last year had to do with new business related to Marcellus shale natural gas.

Respondents were asked whether Marcellus shale would provide their companies with a significant business opportunity in the next five years. This year, 24.2 percent said it would, compared with 18.5 percent last year.

Alex Nixon is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7928 or anixon@tribweb.com.

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