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First Business Economic Survey Dane County Shows Strong Business Performance For 2015 And Strong Optimism For 2016

MADISON, WI, – Dec. 16, 2015 – The results of the 13th annual First Business Economic Survey were released today at the invitation-only First Business Economic Forum. Each fall, First Business takes the pulse of local businesses through an annual economic survey in 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 employee, changes in wages, and changes in pricing.

First Business has annually underwritten the survey to help business owners achieve a broad based and up-to-date understanding of the local business climate, which includes information that can be utilized in planning for the coming year.

“This year’s survey again reflects a fairly positive perspective in terms of both 2015 results and expectations for next year; however, we continue to see flatness in capital expenditures,” commented Mark Meloy, CEO of First Business Bank. “Strong indicators appear in both hiring wages which generally is a positive sign for everyone.”

“Businesses in Dane County expected 2015 to be a very good year, and they were not disappointed! Looking ahead, there’s high optimism for even better performance in 2016 when it comes to sales, profits, and still-robust hiring” stated Dr. Moses Altsech, President of Altsech Consulting, the firm that conducted this year’s survey. “Just as importantly, the projections for improved business performance are not a case of wishful thinking, but rather based on increased sales and marketing efforts, higher efficiency, and new investments in talent: This confidence that’s so prevalent in Dane County (and indeed across the State) is undoubtedly good news for businesses and consumers alike!”

A summary of the Dane County findings presented at today’s economic forum included:

  • 71% of respondents indicated that 2015 either lived up to expectations or was better than expected in terms of overall performance.
  • In 2015, Actual Sales saw a decline from the historic high of 75% of respondents who saw an increase in sales in 2014 to a still-strong 65% who saw an increase in 2015.  However, the percentage of respondents who saw a decrease in sales was just 17%, a new historic low.
  • 54% of respondents saw an increase in Actual Profitability in 2015, down from 62%, the previous year’s historic high.
  • A very strong 44% of respondents (tying the previous year’s historic high) increased their Actual Number of Employees in 2015.
  • 71% of respondents saw Actual Wages increase in 2015, and a new historic low 1% reported a decrease in Actual Wages.
  • In 2015, 37% of respondents reported an increase in Actual Capital Expenditures (a decrease from the previous year), but those reporting a decrease were at a historic low 10%.
  • The number of respondents who saw Actual Total Operating Cost as a Percentage of Revenue increase in 2015 was at historic low 38%.
  • 44% of respondents saw an Actual Pricing increase in 2015, down significantly from the previous year, and most (53%) saw prices remain the same.
  • Just over half the respondents (51%) reported utilizing more than 90% of operating capacity.  39% utilized between 70-90%, while just 10% utilized less than 70% of operating capacity.

The outlook for 2016 is very positive, though not at the record-breaking levels observed the previous year. Projected Sales and Profits are strong, with hiring expected to continue at a higher rate and no layoffs expected.

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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