MORRISVILLE — The latest chief financial officer survey from Duke University and CFO Magazine warns there are storm clouds on the horizon for the economy, but executives from high-tech and life science firms attending the TechExec on Thursday night have a more positive view.

Granted, the survey conducted by Local Tech Wire among the 200 or so execs who turned out for the networking event hosted by Peak 10 is not scientific. But the people who responded represent a wide range of companies — and they were almost uniformly upbeat about hitting sales targets this year.

Responses followed these lines:

“We are ahead of plan on all fronts”

“On target for 2005”

“We have a good pipeline”

“We are on plan”

“Very excited”

“Optimistic”

“We’re on track”

About the most negative were “cautiously optimistic” and “somewhat”.

The TechExec, which is put on quarterly by Local Tech Wire and its partner ClearImage, is designed to be a forum where executives can relax in a sales-free environment to renew acquaintances or make new contacts, trade insight about business — and maybe discuss whether the last Star Wars movie is as good as the hype surrounding it.

For the first time, LTW sought to survey attendees about how they see the economy. And the responses pretty much followed the mood of the event — upbeat despite gray skies and spitting rain.

In between an adult beverage or cold drink and catered goodies from Sullivan’s, execs toured Peak 10’s state-of-the-art data facility and talked up a storm.

The survey found that most execs see the economy as good. Plus, several companies across different sectors are hiring. However, they also expressed some concerns about the general economy.

“Healthy, but wary” is how one exec described the business climate. “Soft”, “unsure” and “moderate” were also used. But the general trend was positive with such terms as “receptive”, “promising” and “pretty good” balanced by “growing rapidly” and “great”.

In fact, more than one exec stressed “managing growth” as the biggest challenge their respective firms faced.

Troy Webb of Incentric Solutions, Fabian Oliva of Refense Technologies, Dave Jones of Peak 10, and Donovan Moxey of Interactive Multimedia Solutions were just a few of the executives who were excited about the state of business.

Moxey’s firm continues to make strong strides in selling his rendering technology to game companies. Webb points out that Incentric is “hot”, adding employees and looking for possible acquisitions. Jones points out that all of Peak 10’s data centers in five markets are performing well. And Oliva notes Refense is ready to announce new customers as well as resellers for its security technology.

Of course, the search for better deals never ends – no matter what the economic climate is.

When asked about the biggest demand companies are seeing, one sales exec stressed “Discounts!”

The TechExec is sponsored by Peak 10, SAS, Grant Thornton, Cisco and Southern Capitol Ventures. Rick Smith is managing editor of Local Tech Wire.