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Continued: Higher sales, hiring and spending signal robust business optimism

  • Article by: JOHN J. OSLUND and PATRICK KENNEDY , Star Tribune staff writers
  • Last update: May 17, 2013 - 5:47 PM

That could change. “More baby boomers will be retiring and there is a shortage of people behind them,’’ Puto said. “I am predicting a boom in management development’’ to bring the younger workers up to speed.

Second-tier corporate concerns include global competition, the Minnesota economy, the housing slump and privacy regu­lations. Terrorism and climate change ranked last.

Meanwhile, fears of the 2008-09 credit crisis seem to have faded. In the depths of the recession, access to credit dried up even for the most creditworthy companies. That problem seems to have gone away, at least for these larger, publicly held companies.

Eighty-two percent of companies said their access to credit is “about the same’’ today as it was a year ago, while 18 percent said they had more access to credit. None said they had less access to capital.

Capital spending

Companies said they are more inclined to boost capital spending this year than at any time in the last four years, our survey shows. Companies invest in capital equipment for two reasons — to increase capacity or to increase efficiency, Puto said.

The fact that both spending and hiring plans are up suggests “they are increasing capacity,’’ said Puto.

Another reason spending is up? “They have been conserving their cash by many strategies including not buying new equipment in the past few years,’’ Vang said. “Now some of that equipment has to be replaced.’’

But corporate confidence is ­easily rattled. Last fall, when uncertainty about the election and the standoff in Congress over the fiscal cliff dominated the headlines, companies responded warily. More than 40 percent said they decreased spending and/or hiring during that period while another 27 percent put hiring and spending decisions on hold.

“The past two years we have had a lot of political uncertainty, especially surrounding the heath care act,’’ Vang said. “ ‘What’s going to be my true cost per employee?’ Now I am getting a sense that businesspeople are assuming that the act will be here.’’

That gives them more certainty about the politics of health care — the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is here to stay — but uncertainty remains about what it’s going to cost.


Ask a businessperson about raising taxes and the likely response is: “Please don’t.’’

That was the overwhelming corporate response to Gov. Mark Dayton’s proposal to expand the consumer sales tax to include clothing and consumer services (85 percent disagreed) and a since-abandoned plan to add a business-to-business services sales tax to legal services, advertising and accounting (94 percent disagreed).

A sampling of responses:

Electromed Inc.: “Additional taxes will only slow economic growth and ultimately reduce state revenues.”

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