NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Small-business owners are optimistic about 2015, but worry about the dysfunction in Washington and rising health-care costs.
Some 45% of small-business owners think economic conditions will strengthen during the next year, compared with 41% last year, according to Bank of America's ( BAC) annual State of Small Business survey, which polls 1,000 business owners with annual revenue of less than $5 million.
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"Small businesses have more customers and we're seeing more broad data points like lower gas prices and more people working," Robb Hilson, Bank of America's small business executive, said in an interview with TheStreet. "This supports small businesses' confidence moving into next year."
Gas prices average $2.64 per gallon nationwide, according to AAA, putting consumers in a better position to spend.
And small business owners weren't affected by the recent drop in consumer spending during the Black Friday shopping weekend, as 83% of respondents said Black Friday had no noticeable effect on profits, up from 79% who said that last year. The National Retail Federation said spending dropped 11% from a year ago.
Amid the optimism, most small business owners cite Washington gridlock as the main concern heading into 2015. Some 73% are worried about the competence of government leaders, while 72% are concerned about health care costs. And 63% worry about commodity prices, despite the precipitous drop in oil prices.
One disadvantage among small business is a lack of scale. Major companies are more cost efficient thanks to their size. But Hilson says that's part of what contributes to small-business pride.
"Business owners are supremely confident," he says. "They love having a great deal of control and while many aspire to be much bigger, many are comfortable remaining steady eddie and contributing to the U.S. economy."
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-Written by Scott Gamm in New York.
This article is commentary by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.