Survey finds Central Virginia CEOs more optimistic but still cautious

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Central Virginia CEOs expect sales and hiring to pick up in the next six months.

Nonetheless, business executives are being cautious about capital spending because of the uncertain direction of the economy.

Those are two conclusions gleaned from the fourth quarter CEO Economic Outlook survey jointly conducted by the Virginia Council of CEOs and University of Richmond’s Robins School of Business.

The survey revealed a rising level of optimism among CEOS. The Outlook Index reached 88.63 in the fourth quarter, up from to 81.17.

More than two thirds of the executives surveyed,  68.2 percent, predict increased sales during the next two quarters. In addition, 53.4 percent expected to hire more employees.

However, a majority of those polled, 62.5 percent, don’t expect a change in capital spending.

Economic uncertainty, however,  is still the most significant business issue CEOs face, ranking ahead of rising energy and health-care costs, staffing concerns, financial issues and political uncertainty.

“When there’s an increase in the number of companies that are not planning to invest and spend in the next six months, that’s a sign that confidence in the economy is still lacking and holding onto cash is the top priority,” Scot McRoberts, executive director of the council, said in a statement. “It is nice to see that there is more optimism. However, we’ll need to see several quarters of increased sales and better than expected performance before a mindset is changed and things like capital spending and other investments start again.”

The Council of Virginia CEOS and the Robins School collected responses from 88 business owners and CEOs in Central Virginia. The average annual revenue year-to-date for CEOs responding was $7.2 million.

Jeff Pollack, assistant professor of management at the Robins School Pollack adapted the survey from the Business Roundtable, an association of CEOs leading U.S. companies.

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