More than a third of private company CEOs and CFOs plan to increase their capital spending in the coming year, the highest percentage in over two years, according to a new report by PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Thirty-six percent of the 205 CEOs and CFOs polled by PwC US anticipate making major new investments over the next 12 months, five points higher than a year ago. PwC surveyed the executives as part of its quarterly Trendsetter Barometer.

“The other finding that jumped out was that for those that are planning to increase their capital expenditures, they plan to increase it in relation to their percentage of their sales up to 8.4 percent, and that’s up from 6.4 percent about a year ago, so it’s a substantial increase from year over year,” said Ken Esch, a partner in PwC's Private Company Services practice.

About 59 percent of the business leaders surveyed indicated they are optimistic about the U.S. economy’s 12-month outlook. Private companies that sell abroad are especially positive, with a lopsided 92 percent of the executives indicating they view the world economy as either growing or remaining unchanged. Only 8 percent of them—the lowest percentage in years—described the global economy as slowing.

A 56 percent majority of the survey respondents plan to hire in the next 12 months, albeit in moderation. In addition, 84 percent view workforce investment over the next 24 months as an important element of their corporate strategy. Private companies remain highly targeted in their hiring plans, with 54 percent of the executives citing the need for skilled employees as an impetus driving strategic alliances, and 32 percent complaining that finding qualified workers is a barrier to growth.

Seventy-five percent of the executives surveyed believe technological advances will deliver a moderate-to-major impact on their operations over the next several years, with 44 percent of them expecting a major impact. In addition, 70 percent of the survey respondents said their companies plan to invest in technology that will automate operations and increase productivity, while 60 percent plan to strengthen their cybersecurity.

Moreover, 57 percent of the executives polled said they intend to devote their IT dollars to data management and analytics, while 42 percent expect to focus their tech spending on researching and engaging customers.

“They’re always focused on a return on their investment, so they’re looking to things like technology, where they can upgrade for new advancements to streamline their processes and make their businesses more profitable,” said Esch. “Those that are in the manufacturing industries are also looking at new manufacturing equipment. There have been a lot of technical advancements since the recession, and now that we’re getting further away from the recession, people are more optimistic about their growth prospects. They’re willing to open their wallet and start to spend on capital expenditures.”

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