Talk Business Arkansas — in conjunction with the State Chamber of Commerce and consulting group CEG Partners — released its first “Business Leaders Confidence Survey,” which found that company leaders across Arkansas see sizable revenue growth in 2014 but it may not correlate to hiring or capital investments.
“What we see in these numbers is a slightly optimistic view for the next six months,” said Mike Stafford, managing partner with Little Rock-based CEG Partners, which conducted and analyzed the November survey. A similar survey will be conducted mid-year 2014.
CEG Partners received results from 106 state business leaders representing top executives in all major industry categories, such as manufacturing, health care, finance, technology, construction and utilities.
Some key takeaways:
• 56% said revenues would increase slightly during the next 6 months, with another 8% saying revenues would increase significantly.
• Just 16% said revenues would stay the same, and a combined 20% expect revenues to decline.
• However among the health care sector, just 24% expected increased revenues with 64% saying finances would decrease slightly or significantly.
• 40% of business leaders expect significant or slight employee hiring. 35% see no change, while 24% expect a slight decline in headcount.
• 41% expect to increase slightly their capital expenditures in Arkansas, while 31% expect no change. Just 17% expected to decrease cap ex spending.
“Business leaders continue to be cautiously optimistic and continue to be careful in their assessment of the short-term outlook,” said Randy Zook, President and CEO of the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce, which helped distribute and sponsor the survey.
“Consumer confidence needs to improve if we are to see economic growth achieve the levels we should be seeing at this stage in an economic recovery,” he added.
Indeed, consumer confidence was cited as the number one most pressing issue for a stronger recovery by business leaders who completed the questionnaire.
79% said consumer confidence would have the strongest impact on future economic conditions versus interest rates, the debt ceiling, or the federal budget.
“As we do this again we’ll have some baseline to compare to,” said Stafford. “We’re seeing a modest recovery. I think businesses are still going to try to reign in on expenses and costs and watch what the bottom line is.”
An informal survey of business leaders from the Fort Smith and Northwest Arkansas areas showed optimism in responses about expected 2014 economic conditions. However, in the survey conducted by The City Wire, the execs were concerned that federal regulations and changes in healthcare will curtail the potential for growth.