Area CEOs are more optimistic Over half in survey say condition of company improved

April 27, 1993|By David Conn | David Conn,Staff Writer

Signaling a growing sense of optimism, more than half of the CEOs and other top Baltimore-Washington area executives surveyed recently said that conditions for their company had improved in the past six months.

The 52.7 percent responding positively contrasts with six months ago, when only 39.4 percent of the 850 executives surveyed said conditions had improved, according to the Washington-Baltimore Regional Association. The association is composed of area businesses working to promote the combined market.

Only 14.4 percent of those surveyed in the latest poll said conditions had worsened in the previous six months, compared with 25 percent as of last fall.

However, there was a sour note in the survey.

While 60 percent of the respondents predicted improved conditions by September, about 67 percent felt the same way last fall. Still, the percentage of people expecting their company to hit a downturn soon fell by one-third since the last survey, to 6 percent.

The W/BRA's Business Confidence Index, a composite based on the executives' responses to five questions about the recent and future conditions of their companies, climbed to 62.8 in March, from 55.2 in September. The latest reading was higher than a year ago, when the index stood at 57.4.

"The optimism measured by our survey appears to reflect tangible results of a recovering economy combined with hopes for future economic stimulus tied to the new administration," W/BRA Chairman Hal Donofrio said. Mr. Donofrio is president of the Baltimore advertising firm Richardson, Myers & Donofrio.

Advertising was the most optimistic industry in the survey, with 71 percent of the executives predicting better economic conditions for their company in the next six months and none predicting a turn for the worse.

Wholesale trade executives were nearly as upbeat at 70 percent, followed closely by architecture and engineering executives, 68 percent of whom foresaw better times ahead.

"We have returned to profitability" as of the fourth quarter of last year, said Harold Adams, chairman of RTKL Associates Inc., a Baltimore architecture firm.

"I think the turn probably came in our business around Labor Day last year," he said. "After the election there was a spurt of confidence that followed the retail spurt."

RTKL will be hiring from this year's class of architecture school graduates for the first time in two years, Mr. Adams said. He noted that his firm has been hired to design projects ranging from shopping centers in Florida and Massachusetts to a hotel in the Caribbean.

Health care executives were among the least optimistic about their companies' condition in the near future, possibly reflecting the uncertainty surrounding the Clinton administration's pending health care reform plan.

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