Friday AM April 27th, 2007

KPMG poll of Houston executives reveals positive attitude about economy, business expansion and additional hiring...

Houston business executives polled by audit, tax and advisory firm KPMG expect their companies to perform strongly in the coming years, saying the city's economy has improved. Bud Giesinger is with KPMG's Houston office.

"Well, the survey was quite interesting. After interviewing over a hundred key executives in a variety of business sizes in Houston, we found what we consider to be a somewhat of a bullish attitude on business expansion, and on anticipated additional hiring. We found that over 80 percent of the executives that we interviewed believe that their performance in 2008 will outshine that of 2007, and 2007 in itself was a great year."

Giesinger says Houston's pro-business attitude is helping.

"Well, I think Houston has always had a reputation of being somewhat pro-business, and from the companies that we deal with and that we've surveyed, we find that the ones that are doing business in Houston and elsewhere almost will always remark that Houston is a great place to do business. Not only is the government favorable to business development, but just a general sentiment in all, and it kind of has a long heritage of being pro-business, and we see that continuing in this economic expansion that the city's going through at the present time."

Houston may be the energy capital of the world, but even those in the energy business are affected by higher gasoline prices.

"Most of the economy in Houston is somewhat affected by the energy business, high gasoline prices will even affect even the people of Houston and employees of even the energy companies, and we're talking about pump prices there. Obviously, oil and gas commodity prices, if they expand or stay strong, that would be a good sign for the Houston economy as a whole."

Giesinger says the 2007 Houston Business Climate Survey has a few surprises.

"I think one thing I was surprised about was the amount of attention the respondees focused on technology and investing in their people. I think that Houston, like the rest of the world, and executives are realizing that you need the smart people to compete in this global economy that we're in and you need to give them the best technology tools you have. But I was a little surprised about how overriding that was in our survey and how it came through loud and clear, no matter on what type of industry or the size of the company."

Executives are not as positive, however, on the near-term future of the national economy. But 66 percent of executives anticipate the Houston economy improving this year, with highest growth expected in the energy, healthcare, biotech, retail and distribution.

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