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N.J. reflects U.S. CEOs' optimism, with a twist

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KPMG released the results of its nationwide CEO study Wednesday, finding that top executives are confident in the direction of the economy. That is the feeling of business leaders in New Jersey, too, a KPMG executive said in an interview Monday.

The audit, tax and advisory firm surveyed 400 CEOs of U.S. multinational companies, and found that 62 percent are more confident about their growth prospects over the next three years than they were a year ago, and 55 percent expect to see further improvement in the economy.

“From looking at the study and the key findings, it’s pretty consistent with what I hear out in the local marketplace,” said Kelly Watson, the New Jersey office’s managing partner.

Nationally, KPMG found that the biggest area of concern was product relevance, with 72 percent of the CEOs concerned with that particular issue.

Watson said, however, that New Jersey business leaders had some concerns distinctive to the Garden State.

“I think the survey very much aligns with what I’m seeing in our New Jersey market,” she said. “I do think there are some unique challenges to our location.”

The first was that businesses are growing through acquisitions, rather than organically, and therefore need to integrate new product lines or even new companies with their own businesses.

“Inorganic growth is great,” she said, “however, you really have to focus on the integration of these businesses or products once you buy them.”

A second concern was attracting and retaining talent. Watson mentioned the high tax rates in the state as an issue for businesses trying to hire the best workers from other states, or trying to keep those they have in-state.

Finally, she described the new challenge of incorporating data and analytics into business evaluations. Businesses, she said, need to use data to predict what customers will need going forward.

“Those are the three things I hear the most chatter about,” she said.

However, Watson said that, overall, business is looking up.

“By and large, people are feeling better,” she concluded. “By and large, the mood is good.”


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