From upgrading facilities to buying technology, industrial companies are confidently investing in their businesses to build upon a period of sustained growth, according to the results of ThomasNet’s newest Industry Market Barometer (IMB)

Nearly half (45 percent) of the companies responding reported growth over the last six months of 2010, and 88 percent of those are confident in their future expansion. The survey reveals a set of specific strategies that fueled this growth, from customer-retention efforts to movement into new markets and product development. Bolstered by the results of these strategies, respondents are investing more in their companies and recruiting talent in anticipation of increased customer demand.

The companies surveyed are also hiring in anticipation of growth; 37 percent of respondents plan to hire through the first half of 2011. The most common job openings are aligned with their priorities and include skilled trade workers (43 percent), line workers (36 percent), and engineering professionals (35 percent), in addition to customer service and sales/marketing staff.

Source: ThomasNet, Industry Market Barometer

Despite the healthy growth being reported, survey respondents acknowledge the hurdles ahead of them. Interestingly, their initiatives and investments speak directly to their obstacles. Their top challenge (cited by 68 percent) is customers cutting back or going out of business, and they are addressing it by focusing on customer retention and service. Domestic competition is another challenge, which respondents are tackling by competing more aggressively in core markets and pursuing business in new industries and U.S. geographies.

Industrial businesses are recognizing that investing in a more strategic use of the Internet, in particular, their websites, is enabling their strategies to succeed. This is especially evident among the “Outperformers.” Nine out of 10 say their Web strategies have been important to their expansion, delivering increased revenue, new sources of business, an ability to compete more aggressively, and improved service.

Nearly 3,400 professionals participated in the latest IMB, a survey of buyers and sellers of industrial products and services, most of whom represent small and midsize businesses. The research looks at their performance, outlook, and strategies for success. Respondents include business owners and managers, sales and marketing executives, engineers, and purchasing agents from manufacturers, distributors and service companies in North America.

To view and download the full results of ThomasNet’s IMB, click here.