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Economic Report -- By Robin Ashton
Manufacturer CFOs Optimistic About 2012, Survey Finds


Chief financial officers at Prime Advantage member companies remain very optimistic about their own companies’ financial prospects this year, though they are slightly less upbeat about the general economy.

The fourth annual CFO survey by the manufacturers’ buying consortium, which includes many leading foodservice equipment and supplies companies, reports that 69% of executives are more optimistic about their companies’ financial prospects in 2012, up slightly from 67% in ’11.

But CFOs are slightly less optimistic about the U.S. economy than last year, with 67% feeling better about ’12 compared to 74% in last year’s survey.

Among other findings: 59% of manufacturers expect moderate to high growth from their key customers this year; nearly 95% of CFOs plan to invest in manufacturing equipment and 63% in computer hardware; CFOs report that customers are less affected by tight credit, with 24% of respondents in ’12 stating customers are not affected by the cost or availability of credit, compared to 14% in ’11. In addition, health insurance premiums increased for most respondents, but at a lesser rate than last year.

Among the manufacturers’ top priorities this year are cutting operating costs, developing new products and services and strategic planning. The CFOs list among their top problems finding skilled labor. Some 57% have open unfilled positions, up dramatically from last year, and 65% note that finding skilled help is the main issue. As a result may are investing in retraining current employees and working with local educational institutions on key manufacturing skills.

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