Survey: Midsize Manufacturers More Optimistic About U.S. Economy

A CFO survey by Prime Advantage showed 90 percent of executives believed 2015 company would match or beat last year’s totals.

A recent survey of executives at midsize manufacturers showed expectations for the U.S. economy beginning to mirror optimism about their own companies.

The seventh annual poll by Prime Advantage, a Chicago-based purchasing aggregator, indicated that half of the participating chief financial officers anticipated growth in the U.S. economy this year, a four percent increase over the 2014 poll and a record high for the survey.

Prime Advantage also said anxiousness over the federal budget deficit and overall government effectiveness declined by nearly 40 percent compared to previous polls.

"For the past several years, significantly more CFOs expressed confidence in their own companies than in the economy overall," the company said. "But there is now rising confidence in the U.S. economy with 50 percent expecting growth."

The CFO survey showed 90 percent of executives believed 2015 company would match or beat last year’s totals. Half of participants reported that orders exceeded totals from the same time in 2014, while CFOs forecasted revenue growth with their key customers during the next three years.

Ninety-three percent of poll respondents expected their industry to remain constant or grow this year, a slight decrease compared to the 2014 survey.

In addition, a record 96 percent of participants anticipated adding manufacturing equipment this year; 67 percent reported that their companies are working on new products, and services and 44 percent said research and development spending should increase this year.

CFOs ranked competitor price pressure and customer demand as their top concerns for fourth consecutive year. Meanwhile, 70 percent indicated difficulty in finding capable employees in their markets, largely due to a shortage of skilled workers.

In addition, 55 percent of represented companies reacted to rising health care costs by implementing preventative programs, a 16 percent increase compared to the 2014 poll.

The Group CFO Survey included CFOs from Prime Advantage member companies that responded in February 2015. Most companies ranged between $20 million and $500 million in annual revenue, although the full range spanned from $10 million to $4 billion.