The Economic Summit at the Frank J. Pasquerilla Conference Center in downtown Johnstown was brimming with good news and plenty of optimism Monday regarding the region’s economic picture.

Results of the annual Regional Economic Climate Study, researched by University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown professors John McGrath and Ron Vickroy, was the primary source for the summit’s feel-good news.

The highlights of the three-county study included:

• 47 percent of respondents plan more capital spending for 2006.

• Respondents projected adding 1,217 jobs, 200 by one anonymous company alone.

• Exactly one-half of the respondents projected a revenue increase of 3 percent or more for 2006.

• 56 percent project revenue increases of 3 percent or more during the next three years.

• 57 percent projected wage increases of more than 3 percent for 2006.

The study was built upon a sample that represents 4.2 percent of all business located in Cambria, Somerset and Bedford counties.

Cambria County’s projections were the most optimistic of the three counties.

More than 38 percent of Cambria employers projected revenue growth of 3 percent or more for next year, and 63 percent of those companies are expected to add new positions, compared with just 48 percent in 2005.

Somerset and Bedford counties had favorable outlooks on job creation. About 25 percent of Somerset employers and 11 percent of Bedford employers expect to expand payrolls next year.

McGrath said it should be noted that the study features a margin of error of plus or minus 5.4 percent. However, when it comes to job figures, the projections in past studies have been very close to the actual results, and employers are generally conservative when projecting their jobs outlook.

“John and I have been conducting this survey for the past 12 years, and there was only one other time when the employment forecasts were better than last year and this year,” Vickroy said. “Last year’s projections were very good, and this year’s are even better – 4 percent better, in fact.”

Perhaps the most surprising finding is that manufacturers are expecting to be among the leaders in adding new jobs.

The service sector is projected to lead in job creation at 32 percent, but manufacturing was right behind at 28 percent.

What made the strong manufacturing projections so surprising is that the study didn’t include positions expected to be created by the opening of Gamesa’s Fiberblade plant in Ebensburg, nor the coal industry jobs on the horizon.

“That’s what makes these results even more promising,” McGrath said.

“Because the respondents are anonymous, we can’t pinpoint from where this growth is coming. But it’s a very exciting development all the same.”

According to Dan DeVos, chief executive officer of Concurrent Technologies Corp., the optimism exuded at Monday’s summit wasn’t unexpected.

He said the summit has always operated on a positive level that has continued to build year after year.

“The momentum has picked up in the region during the past 10 years,” said DeVos, who also serves as chairman of Johnstown Area Regional Industries.

“When you see our city’s name in national magazines as a top technological growth area and one of the best places to do business, that really pays off.

“It opens a lot of doors.”

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