March 14, 2007 -- Stronger sales and increased revenue are boosting optimism among executives at small and midsize companies, according to Vistage International, a San Diego-based CEO membership organization.

Based on a survey of nearly 2,000 chief executives nationwide, Vistage's CEO confidence index rose to 95.4 in the first quarter of the year, compared to a reading of 93 in the previous quarter and a three-year low of 89.3 in the third quarter of 2006.

More CEOs in the latest survey said they expected improved economic conditions in the months ahead, while roughly half said they were planning increased investment spending, the report said.

Still, more than a third desrcibed finding and hiring qualified staff amid rising labor costs as their most critical challenge, the report said.

"Smaller firms expect the economy to continue to improve throughout the year and they are betting on that with new hires and additional spending," Dan Barnett, the group's chief operating officer, said in a statement.

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Published on: Mar 14, 2007