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75% of Northeast Wisconsin Business Leaders Report Meeting or Exceeding Expectations in 2019

APPLETON, WIS. December 11, 2019 – Three out of four business executives in Northeast Wisconsin report continued strong performance in 2019, up from 68% in 2018, according to results of the 11th annual First Business Bank Economic Survey in Northeast Wisconsin.

“I’m so pleased with this year’s results of the First Business Bank Economic Survey in Northeast Wisconsin,” said Rick Hearden, Northeast Wisconsin Market President for First Business Bank. “Far from the gloom and doom that was predicted with the trade war and long, slow economic expansion, our data direct from business leaders in Northeast Wisconsin shows that our economic engines are humming along and predicting an even better 2020. This data is critical for local business owners to help plan their upcoming expansion and growth.”

Hiring & Wages
The First Business Bank Economic Survey report shows strong hiring and wage results as 33% of respondents reported an increase in their number of employees and a new historic high 83% saw an increase in wages. Another 18% of respondents reported a decrease in their number of employees and 7% a decrease in wages. Seventy-four percent predict higher wages still in 2020, nine points above the previous year’s projection, and 49% expect to add employees next year. Only 5% project a decrease in number of employees in 2020.

Sales & Profitability
This year saw a dip in reported sales revenue increases as 56% of respondents reported a sales revenue increase, down from 80% in 2018, however most (79%) project higher sales in 2020. Reported profitability increases were lower compared to last year —  49% reported increased profits in 2019, down from 55% in 2018 (a record high). Looking ahead to 2020, 67% project an increase in profits and a new historic low 1% project lower profits for 2020.

Overall Expectations
Business performance was positive compared to 2018: 29% report better-than-expected performance, down from 35% in 2018, and 46% met expectations (up from 33% in 2018), bringing the total of respondents who met or exceeded expectations in 2019 to 75%, up from 68% in 2018. On the opposite side of the spectrum, 25% report worse-than-expected performance (down from 32% in 2018.) Of the 25% of respondents who reported not meeting their expectations, most cited higher operating costs, followed closely by a skills shortage and domestic sales shortfall as primary obstacles. Survey respondents report slightly more caution entering 2020, a presidential election year, but overall business performance expectations for 2020 are positive: 70% expect to do better (down from 78% in 2018), and just 3% expect to do worse (down three points from last year). Another 27% expect to do just as well as they did in 2019 (up from 16% in 2018).

A summary of the local results of the First Business Bank Economic Survey include:

  • 83% report increased wages — a new historic high; 74% predict higher wages in 2020
  • 56% saw a sales increase – down from 80% historic high in 2018
  • 49% saw increased profits, compared to a historic high 55% in 2018
  • 79% project higher sales revenue in 2020, down from 82% projection in 2018
  • The outlook for 2020 is positive, with 97% of companies expecting improved or unchanged performance, up from a 94% prediction for 2019.

Every year, local business leaders report performance in the current year and predictions for next year. First Business Bank conducts the survey annually in the Greater Madison Area, Southeast Wisconsin, Northeast Wisconsin, and the Kansas City Metro to help business owners plan for the upcoming year.

Download the full First Business Economic Survey Report at www.firstbusiness.com/survey.

About First Business
First Business Financial Services is a Wisconsin-based bank holding company, focused on the unique needs of businesses, business executives and high net worth individuals. First Business offers commercial banking, specialty finance and private wealth management solutions, and because of its niche focus, is able to provide its clients with unmatched expertise, accessibility and responsiveness. For additional information, visit www.firstbusiness.com.


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