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First Business Economic Survey Results Indicate 2015 Should Be A Very Good Year For Dane County Businesses

MADISON, WI, – Dec. 3, 2014 – The results of the twelfth 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 Area, 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.

“The results from this year’s survey are positive in almost every way,” commented Mark Meloy, President & CEO of First Business Bank. “The outlook for 2015 is encouraging as well. I think we can finally say the hangover from the Great Recession is behind us.”

“The prevailing theme of this year’s survey results is optimism: It’s optimism about sales, profits, hiring–precisely what we’ve all being hoping to see for far too long,” stated Dr. Moses Altsech, principal of Moses Altsech Consulting, the firm that conducted this year’s survey. “Optimism in itself is a good thing, because it has the potential to become a self-fulfilling prophecy. But this is beyond just an upbeat attitude; it’s strongly optimistic predictions about business performance after a long period of caution and a “wait and see” approach. That is very good news for Dane County businesses, as well as everyone in Wisconsin!”

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

  • The percentage of businesses operating at or above expectations in 2014 was a record 73%, the highest level since the first year of the survey (70% in 2004).
  • In 2014, Dane County businesses continued an upward trend in Sales Revenue started in 2010. A record 76% of business reported increased Sales Revenue which was also a statistically significant increase from 2013 level of 55%.
  • A record percentage of businesses in Dane County saw increases in profitability in 2014 (63%). What is more encouraging is that businesses are projecting even higher profitability in 2015 across all the sectors.
  • While more than half the businesses (53%) reported an increase in Operating Costs as a percentage of Revenue in Dane County, the number continues to trend downward since 2012.
  • Employment is trending up for Dane County with increases in both Number of Employees and Wages, although the changes are not statistically significant. There is now a five year declining trend seen in the percentage of companies reporting decreased employment numbers from 39.8% in 2009 to 8.6% in 2014. The percentage of businesses reporting decreased Wages is at its lowest level (4.8%) in the history of this survey, and more than 75% of Dane County businesses reported increased Wages for 2014 which is back to Pre-Recession levels.
  • A record 84% of Dane County businesses responding to the survey expect increased wages in 2015 compared to 55% last year.
  • Fewer Dane County businesses in 2014 reported decreases in Pricing compared to 2013 (down from 6.7% last year to 1.7%) continuing a fiveâ€year trend. An increase from last year, 62% of businesses reported increased prices.
  • After reaching the peak in Capacity Utilization in 2013 when 38% of Dane County businesses reported utilizing at least 90% of their capacity, in 2014 this number saw a decline as 21% of businesses reported utilizing at least 90% of capacity.
  • The top three actions attributed to improved company performance in 2014 are the same as in 2013; Increased Sales Efforts, Improved Internal Efficiencies and Increased Marketing Efforts.
  • Capital Expenditures increased or were unchanged for 90% of respondents which is an all-time high, and still 46% expect to increase cap-ex in 2015 (the highest level since 2006).  For respondents that consider themselves in “manufacturing,” 57% expect to increase cap-ex in 2015 – a record in that category.
  • A survey record 90% (previous best 84% for 2007) of businesses in Dane County are expecting better performance in 2015 which continues a three year increasing trend.

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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