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Boston area’s small businesses cautious, but optimistic

Small-business owners are cautiously optimistic about the coming year in Greater Boston, with most anticipating increased sales and many expecting to hire more workers, according to a Bank of America survey to be released Thursday.

More than half of the Boston-area small businesses that were polled said they expect revenues to grow in 2013, while 9 percent believe revenue will shrink.

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Nearly one in four plans to hire more workers, while 2 percent plan to cut staff.

The survey found similar numbers for business owners in other cities across the country.

“I think they’re optimistic,” said Anna Colton, Bank of America’s national sales executive for small-business banking, who is based in Boston. “I find that really encouraging.”

Small businesses account for about half of private employment in both Massachusetts and the United States.

Chris Constantino, the president of Camio Custom Cabinetry, said business has been so strong that he was able to hire two more workers this year — boosting the Canton company’s headcount to eight.

Constantino said he is confident his company will continue to gain market share, but nervous about the business environment overall.

“I am optimistic things will be better for us,” Constantino said, “but I am not sure the economy will be better next year.”

One-third of the respondents in Boston and the nation said they were confident their local economies would improve in the next year.

Small- business owners were even more uncertain about the US and global economies, with political gridlock in the United States, a debt crisis in Europe, and a slowdown in China.

About one-fourth of small businesses in the Boston area said they expect the national economy to improve next year, and 13 percent anticipate improvement in the global economy.

The survey included more than 1,000 small businesses across the country and 300 in Boston, all with fewer than 100 employees and less than $5 million in sales.

Richard Caraviello, owner of RC’s Grand Coach & Limousine, said this year was unusually sluggish for his Medford business.

He said companies are delaying travel and spending because of the uncertainty in Washington. RC’s employs three.

But with the elections over, Caraviello hopes customers will start spending again. He said he is optimistic enough to consider buying an additional vehicle for his fleet.

“People were afraid of the elections and the uncertainty about who was going to president,” Caraviello said. “At least you know there is going to be a person in charge, and you can work around that.”

Todd Wallack can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @twallack.
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