In a survey of 350 manufacturing executives from October, the majority of respondents expected to increase hiring, pay more wages and take in more revenue during 2019.
The survey and report were co-produced by LBMC, a Brentwood-based accounting and consulting firm, and the Leading Edge Alliance, an industry association.
The findings contrast with gloomy news from the International Monetary Fund, which on Monday said the global economy is softening faster than expected.
"There’s a feeling that there’s still room for expansion, but there’s just worry,” said John Mark McDougal, LBMC manufacturing industry lead, “One major event… could change this outlook overnight.”
The largest group of respondents, at 71 percent, said they were most optimistic about their regional economies. That was followed by the national economy at 69 percent and global at 56 percent. In last year's report, the regional and national economies were tied.
Tennessee's strong auto industry is one example of the southeast's recent economic gains. Volkswagen announced this month plans to invest $800 million and hire another 1,000 workers to produce the company’s first electric vehicle in Chattanooga.
The survey found that 62 percent of respondents said they planned to increase hiring in 2019, and 59 percent said they expected to pay more for employee wages.
One reason for the respondents' optimism might be their smaller size, said McDougal. The bulk of manufacturing executives were from companies with annual revenue less than $50 million. Larger corporations could be more vulnerable to a global downturn, he said.