Manufacturing Executives Less Confident about Economy

While there is still general optimism about the U.S. economic environment overall, manufacturing business executives are less confident today than six months ago, reports Grant Thornton’s Survey of U.S. Business Leaders. According to this national survey, 74 percent of manufacturing respondents expect the U.S. economy to improve in the coming year, a slight decrease from the January 2004 survey, which reported that 82 percent felt the economy would improve.

Although economic recovery has been slower than expected, manufacturing business leaders still remain extremely optimistic about the growth of their own businesses, reports 92 percent of respondents, which remained on target with results from the January 2004 survey (93 percent).

As manufacturing companies build up this growth momentum, their primary focus will be on retaining key talent, as noted by 75 percent, as well as business execution and dealing with pressure margins, as recognized by 68 percent. Manufacturing companies are also refocusing their business strategy on innovation. While innovation has always been an important part of the growth strategy, 47 percent of manufacturing executives say innovation has become more important in the past year.

Half of manufacturing business leaders say their employee headcount has increased over the past year (50 percent), while only 6 percent report it has decreased and nearly 44 percent say it has remained the same.

The majority of manufacturing business leaders believe they are on track for hitting their sales targets in the next six months, with 54 percent of respondents saying they are on target, 40 percent saying they are above target and only 5 percent saying they are below target.

Wirthlin Worldwide, an independent market research firm, conducts the biannual Grant Thornton Survey of Middle-Market Business Leaders among more than 300 executives. To read the survey in its entirety, visit Grant Thornton's Web site at www.grantthornton.com/blcsurvey.

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