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Most executives and owners of midsized businesses in the U.S. expect a stronger economy in 2016, and plan to invest in new technology, hiring and geographic expansion, The Hartford found in a new survey.

The results bode well for insurers and others who target this middle market demographic for business, The Hartford said.

“As we head into 2016, businesses that are investing in their operations, expanding their footprint and growing their customer base will look to business partners and service providers who can help them protect their business and manage risk,” David Carter, executive vice president of middle market insurance at the Hartford, said in prepared remarks.

About 60 percent of respondents said they were optimistic that the national economy will get stronger over the next six months, though that’s down from 66 percent in last year’s survey. At the same time, 96 percent of midsize businesses said they are at least somewhat likely to pursue one or more tasks to spark new growth.

Among the survey results, the percentages of midsized business leaders saying they were “somewhat likely” or “very likely/planning” to engage in growth-driving activities were as follows:

  • 87 percent, investing in new technology or operations.
  • 72 percent, offering new products or services
  • 71 percent, hiring additional staff, versus just under half of small businesses.
  • 71 percent expect to expand into new customer areas
  • Nearly 60 percent, expanding into new geographies.

In addition, 44 percent of midsize business leaders surveyed said they are likely to engage in some kind of M&A activity. And 42 percent plan are likely to undertake business activity outside of the U.S.

On the hiring front, less than half of midsized businesses (42 percent) that hired employees this year brought on fewer than they wanted to. Among those who hired less new employees than they wanted, 60 percent said a lack of qualified talent prevented them from bringing on more new people.

Sizeable minorities of respondents also said they are considering using the Internet of Things, 3D printing, wearable technology, drones or driverless vehicles within the next three years. For example, 43 percent said they would consider using IoT in the next three years, compared to only 16 percent using IoT currently.

The Hartford conducted its second annual survey, between Aug. 11-19, 2015, of business owners and top executives from U.S. companies with annual sales/revenues hitting between $10 million and $1 billion. More than 500 owners and C-level executives took part.

Source: The Hartford