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Report Compares Economic Conditions In Major Wisconsin Business Regions

Businesses across Three Major Wisconsin Business Regions Report Better Trends in 2012, and Over Half Project Increased Sales Revenue for 2013

MADISON, WI, – Jan. 2, 2013 – Wisconsin businesses reported better trends in 2012 with more than 50 percent of businesses reporting increased sales in 2012 according to The First Business Economic Survey for Dane County, Milwaukee and Waukesha Counties and the Northeast region of Wisconsin.

The cross regional analysis of the annual First Business Economic Survey, polling business leaders in three key business regions of Wisconsin: Dane County, Milwaukee and Waukesha Counties combined, and the 18 counties that make up Northeast Wisconsin was released today. The research was conducted by the University of Wisconsin’s A.C. Nielsen Center for Marketing Research. O

verall, businesses across the three regions reported better trends in 2012. Northeast Wisconsin continues to trend slightly better than Dane County and Milwaukee/Waukesha businesses.

“The New North businesses performed better in sales revenue, profitability, employment and wages than their counterparts in other areas of the state. Manufacturing continues to show steady growth, and we’re starting to see growth in the technology sector,” says Mickey Noone, President of First Business Bank – Northeast. “Northeast businesses also expect that positive growth trend to continue on 2013.”

In Dane County, more than 45 percent of firms reported increased profitability. In addition, Dane County and Milwaukee/Waukesha businesses expect capital expenditures to level off in 2013. “Dane County businesses continue to improve,” says Mark Meloy, President & CEO of First Business Bank – Madison. “Only about 1/3 of Dane County businesses did not meet their self-imposed expectations.”

Domestic sales shortfall, higher operating costs and rising gas prices were the top three reasons given for low performance. There was more variance across regions in 2012. For instance, Dane County businesses cited the slow housing market, domestic competition and insufficient cash flow as additional causes for low performance.

2013 projections in all regions are similar to 2012 projections:

  • Over 55 percent of businesses in each region project increased sales revenue and over 40 percent project increased profitability.
  • Over 48 percent of businesses expect operating costs to increase, and most plan no changes to capital expenditures. The exception being in Northeast Wisconsin where expenditures are expected to increase.
  • Most businesses project employment to remain stable and project no change or a slight increase to wages especially in Northeast Wisconsin.

“Milwaukee/Waukesha businesses continue to make slow and steady progress,” says Dave Vetta, President and CEO of First Business Bank – Milwaukee. “Every year gets a little better. Our business leaders continue to work to improve.”

A majority of businesses in each region noted that the current economic and political climate continues to pose uncertainty for business expectations and performance. “Overall, Wisconsin businesses are continuing to see signs of recovery,” says Corey Chambas, President & CEO of First Business Financial Services, the Wisconsin-based holding company for the First Business Banks.

“2012 continued to provide challenges for Wisconsin businesses; however for the first year in several years, we saw figures that were back to pre-recession levels. The Northeast continues to lead the way, particularly in the manufacturing sector. Firms in Dane County and Milwaukee and Waukesha Counties are showing steady improvements in virtually every economic indicator.”

First Business launched the annual First Business Economic Survey ten years ago. The 2012 survey was sent more than 17,000 Wisconsin businesses that were reported to have five or more employees and was addressed to the CEO, CFO, President, and/or business owner.

The survey asked respondents to evaluate the current, and predict the future performance of their businesses on eight key economic indicators in each of the following areas: Sales Revenue, Profitability, Total Operating Costs as a Percentage of Revenue, Capital Expenditures, Number of Employees, Overall Wage Change, Change in Pricing, and Operating Capacity. The sample size has an error range of 5 percent and a confidence level of 95 percent.

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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