A little more than half (54%) of small business owners remain optimistic about their business prospects in the long term, according to the newest survey by American Express OPEN Small Business Monitor.

There is a sense of trepidation in the short-term, however, with the uncertain economy holding them back. For the first time in two years, cash flow concerns are on the rise among small firms.

Thirty-one percent of entrepreneurs plan to hire more employees in the months ahead, on par with last fall (29%) and slightly down from last spring.

Now in its 12th year, the semi-annual survey captures a snapshot of small business owner sentiment and plans for the future while providing segmentation by industry, gender and geography.

Among the latest findings comes confirmation that local businesses are very supportive of their own communities. Nearly all (96%) find some way to contribute to their local communities (including donating to local causes, participating in community projects and sponsoring local athletic teams) and 83 percent “buy local” (shop at independently-owned businesses in their neighborhoods).

The full report on this survey can be found on the web.