Cautious optimism among small-business owners

Posted: April 01, 2011

I think all of us would love to see a blowout month for job creation one of these first Fridays - like this one - when the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics releases its widely watched employment report.

The consensus forecast among economists before this Friday's report was the U.S. economy added 185,000 jobs in March.

And that's what many of the various surveys that track employment are saying - things are slowly improving. On Thursday, Pittsburgh-based PNC Financial Services Group issued its semiannual economic outlook for small and midsize business owners that suggests "cautious optimism" is replacing "fear of falling sales."

That may not inspire dancing in the streets, but PNC senior economist Robert Dye said the shift indicated that small businesses were beginning to see better days ahead, with 50 percent of Pennsylvania business owners surveyed expecting high sales for the next six months.

Even the CEOs of the nation's biggest companies seem more inclined to hire than fire, according to the Business Roundtable's CEO survey for the first quarter. Fifty-two percent of the 142 CEOs who responded said they expected to increase employment during the next six months; just 11 percent foresaw a decrease.

Citigroup's Citi Private Bank unit has grabbed five Wilmington Trust Co. "ultra-high net worth" client managers and moved them from the doomed bank's headquarters to Citi's Center City Philadelphia office, where they will focus on multimillionaire business owners and their charities in Pennsylvania and Delaware, Citi spokesman Mark Costiglio says.

Tough break for Warren Buffett's M&T Bank, which hopes to build the millionaire and corporate-service business after it acquires WTC and lays off 700 headquarters workers and bosses later this year.

Wilmington Trust agreed to sell to M&T at a fraction of its former value after it nearly failed because of dumb loans made to developers as property values fell in the late 2000s.

Jumping to Citi:

Barbara McCollum, a 30-year Wilmington Trust veteran, headed the bank's "wealth advisory" unit in the Mid-Atlantic region.

Robert Rosenberg, a veteran of both Wilmington Trust and Glenmede Trust Co., was McCollum's sales manager.

Timothy B. Carroll, senior investment officer. He also worked at PNC.

Paul T. Gordon, senior investment adviser. He also worked at Wachovia.

Jennifer Phillips, a "banker associate."

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