Tuesday, October 16, 2018

New Tariffs Having Less Impact on Virginia Companies than Expected; CEOs Concerned About Democratic Control of Congress

2018 Q3 Economic Survey









(Read Richmond Times-Dispatch coverage >)

Each quarter the Virginia Council of CEOs (VACEOs) and University of Richmond’s Robins School of Business partner to take the pulse of top executives in the region through a comprehensive Virginia CEO Economic Outlook Survey.

The third quarter 2018 CEO Economic Outlook survey by the University of Richmond’s Robins School of Business and the Virginia Council of CEOs finds that Virginia CEOs’ expectations for sales, capital spending, and employment over the next six months increased compared to their expectations last quarter. As a result, the survey’s index rose to its fourth-highest level ever, reversing declines of the past two quarters.

Repeating a question from last quarter, CEOs were asked about the expected impact of tariffs on their business. This quarter, 60 percent expect no impact, 31 percent expect a somewhat negative impact, and only nine percent expect a large negative impact.  These results differ from those last quarter, indicating less impact of tariffs than expected last quarter, as portrayed in the table below.



September 2018

June 2018

Large positive impact



Somewhat positive impact



No impact



Somewhat negative impact



Large negative impact




With the upcoming midterm elections, CEOs were asked how a Democratic takeover of Congress would impact the outlook for their business over the next 12 months. Twenty-four percent expect no impact, 21 percent expect a somewhat (13%) or large (8%) positive impact, while 55 percent expect a somewhat (32%) or large (23%) negative impact.

“The survey shows that CEOs are increasingly positive on the economy,” said Randy Raggio, Associate Dean at the Robins School of Business. “This is partly explained by reduced concern about the potential negative impact of tariffs.” Raggio administers the survey and collects the responses each quarter.

“Polarizing politics and tweetstorms from the top seem to have no negative effect on the outlook for small businesses in our area,” said Scot McRoberts, Executive Director of the Virginia Council of CEOs. Adding, “CEOs continue to struggle with workforce shortages but seem to be adapting to this reality.”

Economic Index Historical Data

YearQuarter 1Quarter 2Quarter 3Quarter 4
2020-18.73 (historic low)
2017108.97 (historic high)103.6399.17106.3



The 2018 third quarter survey found that seventy-nine percent of CEO respondents expect sales to increase over the next six months, up seven percentage points from the second quarter results. To summarize, CEOs predictions over the next six months include:

  • 79 percent expect an increase in sales (up 7 points from last quarter)
  • Nearly 42 percent of respondents expect capital spending to increase (up nearly 4 percentage points compared to last quarter)
  • Nearly 57 percent expect employment to increase
  • 62 CEOs responded to the survey, which was administered September 19 – 25
  • Multiple industries are represented in the sample, including construction, manufacturing, finance and insurance and retail
  • The average company revenue (most recent 12-month period): $13 million
  • The average employment count: 44


The Robins School and VACEOs jointly conduct the quarterly survey, which regularly asks about expectations for sales, capital spending and employment, plus other relevant issues, helping Virginia companies anticipate business conditions and plan for growth. The Robins School adapted the survey from the Business Roundtable, an association of CEOs of American companies that conducts a similar survey nationally. Randy Raggio, associate dean at the Robins School, administers the survey and collects the responses each quarter. The survey has been administered quarterly since 2010.

Read Richmond Times-Dispatch coverage.


The Council continues to expand the survey beyond its members, offering any area business owners whose companies gross at least $1 million in annual revenue the opportunity to participate. If enough businesses participate, the Council will provide survey results by industry. Participation is free, and all participants will receive copies of the survey data.

Business owners and CEOs who would like to participate in the next survey should contact Scot McRoberts at smcroberts@vaceos.org.

Posted by Staff at 7:36 am
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