New survey: CEOs expect turbulent year

A majority of upstate chief executives are hunkering down, forgetting expansion plans into new marke
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A majority of upstate chief executives are hunkering down, forgetting expansion plans into new markets and focusing on their core businesses as they brace for a turbulent year, during which almost half of them worry a recession might take hold, according to a Siena Research Institute survey released Thursday.

At a time when a multiplicity of economic stresses are sapping consumer spending, the SRI survey provides the first snapshot of confidence among CEOs in four upstate metropolitan regions. The 2008 business outlook held by Albany CEOs was slightly brighter than those in Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse.

The report commissioned by First Niagara Bank shows that 41 percent of upstate business leaders expect economic conditions in New York to get a little worse in the next six months and 8 percent expect it to get considerably worse. Thirty-two percent said the predict the state’s economic condition will be unchanged.

Despite CEO’s malaise, few businesses are looking at reducing work forces or price increases, though 31 percent of survey respondents said the profit enhancements strategies include cost reduction. The leading profit strategy identified by 37 percent of CEOs entails expanding demand growth in existing markets.

“This will be a year we will not see price increases on the goods and services produced by these companies … It appears our CEOs are saying to us jobs are stable in upstate New York,” said SRI Director Donald Levy.

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