By Ian Bush

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The economy has existed somewhere between sputtering and stable this year, but there have been some positive signs for businesses — take the holiday sales numbers, for instance.  So, what’s on tap for finances in 2012?

The Philadelphia region is home to quality companies and schools. Such a cornerstone helps keep us afloat when other places lag.

But, take a look at the local jobless rate (fifth-highest among big cities) and Villanova School of Business economics professor David Fiorenza says you’ll see there’s plenty of room for improvement.

“I think what’s happening is a lot of people believe the government should be involved in creating jobs.  Government doesn’t create jobs, supply and demand creates jobs. So, if the companies are willing to create jobs, we can give them as many incentives as possible. I think they’re not creating, because they’re looking at taxes right now and tax structures, and they’re wondering, ‘what’s going to happen next year?'”

Before making any big moves, he says businesses will be poring over fiscal policy to see how they might fare with a new or familiar Oval Office occupant — looking for signs they can be confident in the nominee’s financial prowess — and with how President Obama fares in his attempts to coax Congress into reviving a flat-lined economy.

Locally, Fiorenza says a strong but streamlined local government is one key to rev the economic engines.

“I saw lots of great pockets of growth in the area — places like West Conshohocken Borough, Kennett Square Borough — but then I still see areas lagging behind in a recession, such as the city of Coatesville and Norristown.”

Fiorenza also expects cash-strapped states to make a big push to collect sales taxes on what we buy online.

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