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Wisconsin’s Boundless Optimism Shows in Survey Results

Written by Mike Flynn, President - Milwaukee Region

I felt like a trailblazer as I relocated from Illinois to Wisconsin to become President of the Milwaukee Region of First Business Bank this past summer. I believe there will be many more Illinoisans to follow given the very optimistic outlook for the state of Wisconsin. Mike Flynn Candid

The contrast between the two states was dramatic and palpable. As I drove up I-94 from the western suburbs of Chicago to my office in Brookfield, I felt the change in energy and tone of talk radio when I crossed the state line without needing to see the signs. In Illinois, it was all about the state budget crisis, soaring taxes, and the infighting in Springfield. While the talk radio in Wisconsin took a much more optimistic tone of record low unemployment, robust growth in manufacturing, budget surplus, and FoxConn entering the state.

What I experienced listening to talk radio is playing out in the results of our annual First Business Economic Survey, which we underwrite yearly to provide a data-driven snapshot of Wisconsin business owners’ current feelings about their business’s performance and their predictions for next year.

We survey business professionals — specifically C-suite executives — throughout Dane County, the Greater Milwaukee Region, Southeast Wisconsin, and Northeast Wisconsin. The survey focuses on the current year’s actual and next year’s predicted: sales revenue, total operating costs, capital expenditures, profitability, number of employees, changes in wages, and changes in pricing.

Download the 2017 First Business Economic Survey results

In 2017, sales revenue and profitability continued at a strong pace while companies in all regions increased the number of employees and wages. Overall, it was a very positive year for the counties we surveyed. I was also impressed that more than three-fourths of companies across all the Wisconsin regions we surveyed project even better performance in 2018.

Although some uncertainty could affect business activity (such as possible changes to the Affordable Care Act, corporate and individual tax rates and deductions, and potential political upheaval), those haven’t impacted current business performance or optimism for the year ahead. Business leaders say they’re capitalizing on the positive results by planning to diversify their client base in 2018, creating processes for generating innovative business ideas, creating or expanding leadership training tailored specifically to their needs, and making efforts to further integrate millennials in their company culture.

I’m so energized to be working with Wisconsin businesses in 2018, heading in to a year when it feels like almost anything is possible in a state that’s full of hardworking, can-do business people. At First Business, we are invested in perpetuating and growing Wisconsin’s signature optimism that makes the state so livable, attractive, and prosperous.

Tell us how your 2017 is shaping up in the comments! Is there anything you’re planning to do differently in 2018? If you’d like the chance to weigh in officially and have your voice counted in the 2018 First Business Economic Survey, make sure to download the 2017 results and you’ll be on our list to receive an email in fall of 2018 to participate.

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