By Maria Valdez Haubrich
There’s a surprising bright spot in the U.S. small business economy: Small and midsized manufacturers are growing, according to the results of ThomasNet.com’s latest Industry Market Barometer® (IMB) survey. The poll of more than 1,600 U.S. manufacturers assessed the companies’ 2011 performance, growth plans and outlook for 2012. Here’s some of what ThomasNet found:
Small and midsized manufacturers are optimistic about the future. More than half of respondents (53 percent) report their companies grew in 2011, and three-quarters of them (75 percent) expect their businesses to grow during 2012. Growth is due to:
- Focusing on customer service and retention
- Competing more aggressively in core markets
- Developing new and innovative products
- Pursuing new business both overseas and in the U.S.
Among the encouraging signs of growth, 83 percent of respondents say their companies are spending more on capital equipment, hardware, software and facilities so they can boost production capacity. Respondents are also upgrading their plants and developing new products and services. Almost half of small and midsized manufacturers (48 percent) are hiring new employees, including engineers, skilled tradespeople and line workers.
However, there are still some challenges to be overcome. The biggest issue hindering U.S. manufacturers’ ability to grow is a shortage of skilled labor. In addition, competition from overseas manufacturers that can produce goods for a lower price continues to be a problem.
To fight back, U.S. manufacturers in the survey are promoting their products as “Made in America” and increasing their focus on exporting. More than two-thirds (67 percent) currently sell their good overseas, and 37 percent say they will increase their international sales in 2012.
What other types of marketing are helping small and midsized manufacturers? Like many small businesses, manufacturers report that online marketing is a key part of their mix. Some 86 percent of respondents are currently marketing online and more than half (52 percent) plan to increase their investment in online marketing in 2012. Small manufacturers say online marketing helps them
- Boost sales
- Offer better customer service
- Find new sources of business
Still think U.S. manufacturing is on the way out? The manufacturers in the IMB survey would disagree. More than three-fourths (75.5 percent) say they would “do it all over again” if they were just starting out in business today.
Find the full report online at the Thomas.net website.
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