Iowa’s top business leaders are predicting good news for the beginning of 2005. They expect sales and employment to go up in the first six months of the year. That’s the consensus from an economic outlook survey released by the Iowa Business Council. The council recently polled its members including the CEOs from Iowa’s 20 largest companies. Alexa Heffernan is director of the Business Council. The state’s companies are feeling very positive for the near-term outlook, she says, with 79-percent saying they expect their sales to increase over the next 6 months, 64-percent saying they’ll spend more on capital improvements, and 64-percent are increasing employment. In fact, Heffernan says Iowa’s CEOs have a more positive outlook for the next six months than businesses surveyed nationally. She attributes that to the way iowa companies handled the economic downturn. Many of the companies and most of the manufacturers say they’ve cleared waste out of their systems and let employees be more productive, which has helped them grow. The Iowa companies are “ahead of the pack” in that growth, and Heffernan says their managers are optimistic about what they see in their relative position in the business world and their immediate future. They’re feeling “not just a little bit comfortable, very comfortable” that the state’s economic climate will improve. Heffernan says there’s a perception that manufacturing is struggling in Iowa, but she says it’s actually doing quite well.