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Business owners across New York view the economy as bleak, but are generally optimistic about their own futures, according to the results of an Alfred University study.

More than two-thirds of businesses responding to the university's business climate survey said economic conditions are worse today than one year ago. Sixty-one percent of those business owners anticipate more "unfavorable changes" in the business climate in coming months.

The poll of 1,400 businesses was conducted in May for the university by Harris Interactive. The survey drew a 31 percent response rate, with 435 businesses responding.

Despite the pessimistic economic outlook, more than half the businesses surveyed said they have "definite or tentative plans to hire more people in the coming year."

The university plans to repeat the same survey periodically, to gauge the change in perceptions of small business owners about the economy. Almost two of every three businesses responding said the state is doing a good or fair job creating a "positive business climate." But the view from downstate is much brighter than the view in economically challenged upstate.

"When we looked at upstate results versus downstate results, we found that downstate businesses seem to be more positive, with 83 percent saying the state does a good or fair job creating a positive business climate. Upstate businesses were still positive -- 56 percent said the state is doing a good or fair job with its policies -- but less so than their downstate counterparts," said David Szczerbacki, dean of the Alfred University College of Business. The business owners were skeptical about the benefits of the Bush tax cuts, with only 46 percent saying it will have a positive effect on their business.

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