Access to capital, one of the most worrisome problems for small businesses in recent years, became less so this year, according to a recent survey on the small-business outlook.

The change is part of a broader rise in the optimism of small-business operators, the survey found.

Small and midsize businesses overall expect increased revenues and profits in the next 12 months, according to a national survey of 966 business owners commissioned by Arthur Andersen's Enterprise Group and National Small Business United, an advocacy group.

The survey found investment for growth is on the rise. During the 12 months from June 1995 through May 1996, 31% of small and midsize businesses invested in plant and equipment, as well as research and development, up from the 24% the previous 12 months.

Officials of the Andersen unit said the increase means small businesses are finding it easier to obtain capital for such investments.

In addition, most of the businesses cited competition as their primary concern; in past years, taxation and access to capital were top concerns.

In terms of financing, the survey distinguished between companies with a strategic plan and those without. About 67% of those with strategic plans knew their companies' market values. Bankers say this is an important element in business lending. Strategic planners also tended to be healthier financially.

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