NEW YORK - Despite challenges that are out of their control-from the global economic downturn to the fallout of customers closing doors-a new national survey from ThomasNet shows professionals from manufacturing and industrial companies are not only optimistic about their ability to ride through the recent economic slowdown, but even expect to grow in 2009 as the economy shows signs of a rebound.

Among the 800 executives, managers and engineers from small, midsize and large companies responding to ThomasNet’s Industry Market Barometer survey, 76% say they think the U.S. economy will improve by the second quarter of 2010 or sooner, and 35% expect their own businesses to grow by the end of this year. To be sure, the recession has not left these businesses unscathed. More than half (54%) report a decline in their businesses during the first half of 2009, mostly fueled by customer losses. But these companies are combining ingenuity with decisive action to direct their own rebounds, rather than wait for the economy to pick up steam. The majority (61%) don’t see the Federal Stimulus Package helping them, either-but no matter. As one respondent notes: “This is not our recession. We refuse to participate.”

These business leaders report taking a variety of actions to control their destinies. There is no single silver bullet for how they are going about it. Nearly three quarters (70%) are instituting new sales tactics, specifically: looking for business in new industries such as medical or aerospace, exploring new sales channels like distributors, and increasing their online marketing. In order to more than just survive – but succeed – 38% are developing new and innovative products.

“The leaders of today’s industrial marketplace are demonstrating classic American ingenuity,” says Eileen Markowitz, president of ThomasNet. “The buyers and sellers of industrial products and services are taking matters into their own hands to design their futures and rebuild market share. They’re also savvy enough not to go it alone-bringing in experts to help with online sales strategies, for instance, while they focus on their core strengths.”

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