CHICAGO — Nearly 65 percent of the respondents to the latest Wire survey said business was better in 2006 than 2005. Twenty-three percent of the respondents said business was better in 2005, and 12 percent said business was the same in 2006 as 2005.The respondents were also asked to shine up their crystal balls. Will business be up or down in 2007? The respondents are generally upbeat about the new year. Forty-seven percent believe business will be better than 2006, while 35.3 percent are not sure about their business prospects in the new year. Nine percent of the respondents say business won't be as good in 2007 as it was in 2006, and nine percent say business will be the same as 2006.As a side note to the above business question, in a past survey operators were asked to grade themselves on how well they ran their stores in 2006. Forty percent of the respondents gave themselves a B, 27 percent gave themselves an A, and 22 percent said they earned a C.There are always plenty of challenges facing people in the coin laundry industry. Respondents were asked, "What's your greatest business-related concern for 2007?" As you might expect, the rising cost of utilities was the No. 1 response. Fifty-three percent of the respondents cited rising utility costs as their greatest concern. Other top responses include "more competition will open up" (14.7 percent); "I may need to update my equipment" (9 percent); and "I may lose customers if I raise prices" (6 percent). Six percent of the respondents say they have no business concerns. Several respondents are also worried about finding good employees and a possible hike in the minimum wage. No one was concerned about keeping up with maintenance demands.Are you a veteran operator, or do you know any veteran operators? Do you often talk about, or hear about, how it was easier to run a store in the past? Do you feel this is true? Thirty-nine percent of the respondents believe it's more difficult to run a store today than it was five years ago. Twenty-one percent believe it's easier to run a store today than it was five years ago, while 21 percent say nothing really has changed during the last five years in terms of running a store. Eighteen percent of the respondents are not sure if it's more difficult to run a store today.