CLEVELAND -- The majority of professional contractors have a highly optimistic viewpoint about business growth during both 2002 and 2003.

CLEVELAND - Add another nail to the framework for a hopeful economic recovery. The majority of professional contractors have a highly optimistic viewpoint about their opportunity for business growth during both 2002 and 2003.

Ninety-six percent of full-time contractors feel their business will grow or remain stable in 2002, and 97 percent also feel confident about 2003. That's according to a survey conducted by Market Research Institute, and commissioned by Liquid Nails?.

Some 52 percent of contractors said they expect an increase in business this year, and 44 percent said they expect the level of business to remain the same.

For 2003, 40 percent of contractors anticipate they'll have more business while 57 percent are confident their level of work will remain stable.

These predictions are stronger than the reality of 2001, although the responses show that the recession didn't hit contractors nearly as hard as some other business segments. When asked about their actual level of business for 2001, 35 percent of contractors said they actually had more business, although 21 percent saw a drop-off in customers.

Liquid Nails is a line of construction adhesives and caulks manufactured by Macco, a fully owned subsidiary of ICI Paints of North America. The contractors surveyed are experienced in business, with 78 percent of them having worked in construction and related fields for 10 years or more.

Fifty percent have one to four employees, and another 20 percent have five or more employees. Slightly more than half, 55 percent, work only on residential projects, but another 40 percent work on residential or commercial jobs.

Negatives in minority

"Of course we received comments from both ends of the spectrum," said Pete Appell, vice president of Liquid Nails. "We had contractors tell us that work is booming and things are almost too good because they are turning work away. Other contractors used words like 'dismal' and 'just hanging on'. However, the negative responses were really a small minority, compared to a solid 60 percent or more of the contractors who were very positive and upbeat."

The increase in contractors' business won't be a result of higher rates: Only five percent of contractors expect to raise rates significantly in 2003.

When asked about their biggest business headache, none of the contractors surveyed cited lack of business or overall financial problems, although seven percent did cite collections. The number one problem named was finding quality employees (32 percent), followed by government regulations (13 percent) and customer relations (11 percent).