A United Parcel Service Inc. sponsored poll of small and medium-sized companies in Latin America reports a majority of these firms are optimistic about their prospects for the next 12 months, the company announced Aug. 28.

The UPS Business Monitor Latin America commissioned by UPS and conducted by TNS Gallup between April and May surveyed more than 800 top-level SME executives in seven Latin American and Caribbean countries.

The polling was conducted in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic and Mexico.

According to a news release, the results revealed that almost half of the respondents believe their business is better today than one year ago, and 70 percent expect their business will grow over the next 12 months.

Respondents in Chile (64 percent), Mexico (63 percent) and Colombia (51 percent) were the most positive about their current business when compared to a year ago.

The polling also revealed, however, that Brazilian SMEs are concerned about finding and retaining qualified personnel, Argentine executives are worried about labor costs and Colombians are apprehensive about a market slowdown.

Other findings of the poll include:

Only 14 percent of respondents consider information technology an investment priority although 84 percent said it is an important driver for competitiveness. Investment in marketing and sales is their top priority at a regional level.

Technology and construction are considered the industries with the greatest growth potential, but tourism is considered more important now than it was in last year’s poll.

The respondents also said that the search for suppliers and customs duties are their most significant challenges. They also consider fiscal constraints (46 percent) and the economy and inflation (41 percent) as their main challenges.

For more information about the survey, Rodrigo Garcia-Nieto may be reached by phone at (786) 493-5255 or by sending an email to Rgarcianieto@ups.com.