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Poll shows CEOs seem upbeat

By From the Lowell Sun

LOWELL -- Fifty-four percent of Massachusetts CEOs are at least somewhat optimistic about their own companies, but concerned about the state and national economies, according to a poll released yesterday by a joint project of UMass Boston and UMass Lowell.

The Massachusetts Economic Assessment and Analysis Project (MEAAP), which conducted the statewide poll of 500 chief executives, also found that while most employers planned no change in payroll for the next 12 months, 34 percent indicated they intended to hire additional workers. Only 4 percent planned to decrease staff.

Nearly three-quarters -- 74 percent -- of those surveyed said they expected Gov. Deval Patrick's $1 billion biotechnology plan to be helpful to the biotech industry, with the same proportion saying it will boost overall economic growth.

But while only 13 percent of CEOs said their companies were linked to biotech, almost three times as many -- 38 percent -- indicated they expected Patrick's plan to benefit their companies anyway.

In a statement, UMass Lowell Chancellor Marty Meehan said the survey confirmed that the state and UMass Lowell "are appropriately focusing on growing the biotech and life sciences industry."

The university's nano-medicine, biomanufacturing and medical device development initiatives "can spur additional job growth in these critical sectors," Meehan said.

Other findings:

* Energy costs and health care were each cited by 23 percent of CEOs as being the largest impediment to business expansion.

* Thirty-five percent said the state's new universal health care mandate would have a positive impact on the state, but 31 percent predicted a negative impact.

* Of those who had taken advantage of state economic development incentive programs, 79 percent said they were important in retaining or expanding their work forces.

The survey queried 500 Massachusetts chief executives of companies with at least 20 employees. The poll has a margin of error of 4.5 percent.

MEAPP was established by the Legislature in 2003 to inform the public about economic trends in Massachusetts and to track the performance of state economic stimulus programs.