Compiled By Traci Purdum For the fourth consecutive year, CEOs of technology companies credited having qualified employees as the biggest contributors to their companies' success, according to a recent survey of CEOs whose companies were listed on the Deloitte & Touche Technology Fast 500. The Fast 500 CEO Survey, an annual ranking of the fastest growing technology companies in North America, was conducted in the first quarter of 2001 by Deloitte & Touche's Technology & Communications Group, based in San Jose, Calif. Now, with the market downturn, qualified employees are more important than ever before. In fact, 49% of CEOs surveyed in 2001 said high-quality employees are the biggest contributors to the success of their companies, up from just 39% in 2000 and 31% in 1999. "The right employees play the biggest role in determining a company's success," says Michael J. Brown, CEO of Euronet Worldwide, a software company that ranked No. 2 on Deloitte & Touche's 2000 Fast 500. Euronet Worldwide is based in Leawood, Kan. However, despite recent layoffs in the technology sector, nearly 39% of the CEOs reported that it's still a challenge to attract and retain qualified employees, down from 55% in 2000. In fact, many of the CEOs surveyed said that it is a bigger challenge than ever to attract and retain employees who are qualified, fit the company culture, and bring the right dynamic to the company. Thirty-one percent of the CEOs also noted that a shortage of qualified workers is their biggest obstacle as they continue to grow their businesses. This is particularly true regionally. In fact, 74% of the CEOs surveyed cited that geographically, a larger pool of tech talent would ease their growth pains. This concern is an overwhelmingly larger issue than the next biggest concern, the need for tax breaks, mentioned by just 11% of the respondents.