With trade agreements supplanting military alliances now that the Cold War is over, 75 percent of the businesses surveyed by Grant Thornton, an accounting and management consultant firm, said they plan to increase exporting in the next two years.

From the North American Free Trade Agreement to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, the United States has been successful in reaching formal accords with other parts of the continent and the world, the survey said.The survey, which included participation by Utah companies having between $10 million and $500 million in annual sales, was conducted in 25 states and the District of Columbia where the company has offices. Grant Thornton has offices in Salt Lake City and Provo.

According to the survey, 73 percent of the companies said they exported. Of those companies exporting, 13 percent said 20 percent of their sales came from exporting, 14 percent said 14 percent of their sales came from exporting and 52 percent said export sales constituted less than 5 percent of their overall business.

When asked why they would increase their exporting, 55 percent said they were responding to more international opportunities and emerging markets; 11 percent see increased opportunities resulting from NAFTA; 10 percent said there is more foreign competition in their industry and 7 percent said the domestic market is shrinking.

Asked about the impact of NAFTA, 78 percent said it would benefit manufacturing and 44 percent said it would benefit their company. Forty percent said NAFTA would have a positive impact on their company, 5 percent said it would have a negative impact and 49 percent said it wouldn't affect their business.

Shane Edwards, manager of Grant Thornton's Provo office, said, "Midsize U.S. companies are not sitting idly on the sidelines in this game of global competition among the world's manufacturers. They are taking steps and making investments to preserve their existing customer base and develop new markets.

Here are some of the other results of the survey:

- 74 percent of the respondents will add to their staffs and 60 percent will increase hours that employees work to meet rising demand for products.

- A majority of the companies familiar with the International Organization for Standardization 9000 series for quality have become certified, 15 percent are pursuing certification and 41 percent plan to pursue certification within the next two years.

- 59 percent of the companies surveyed have a manager on staff who is responsible for compliance with environmental regulations.

- Over the past two years, 64 percent of the companies have either acquired a new major computer system or substantially upgraded their existing software of hardware. In the next two years, 36 percent said they will accomplish this task.

For a free copy of the survey send a fax request to 531-6888 or write to Grant Thornton, 170 S. Main, First Interstate Building, Suite 1000, Salt Lake City, UT 84101.