GMC board members cautiously optimistic

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Editor’s note: BizTimes asked Julia Taylor, president of the Greater Milwaukee Committee, to ask some of her board members to share their thoughts about the year ahead in business.

Rich Meeusen
Chairman, president & CEO, Badger Meter Inc., Milwaukee

“I would expect to see a continued slow economic recovery in 2012, but we will still not reach pre-recession levels for jobs, housing and the markets.  The Obama stimulus program was a complete failure because the money was not spent where it could have a strong impact. Therefore, I do not expect to see any more stimulus spending. Meanwhile, the 2012 U.S. economy will be negatively impacted by European economic issues and by a continued slowdown in the Chinese growth engine. The anti-business sentiment will continue until people begin to realize that good jobs are created by businesses, not by government programs. And businesses will not begin creating jobs until there is more certainty over taxes, health care costs and regulatory policies. None of these factors will be addressed seriously in 2012 due to the contentious election year we are facing. Overall, I would expect to see ‘more of the same’ in 2012.”

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Linda Salchenberger
Keyes Dean of Business Administration, Marquette University, Milwaukee

“It’s been a rough ride for the economy since I arrived in Milwaukee in 2008 as business dean at Marquette, and four years later, it appears that the major challenge facing the U.S. is how to adjust to a new equilibrium. Certainly the No. 1 priority for the U.S. and Wisconsin economies is the creation of new jobs. For 2012, I am cautiously optimistic about the job outlook for college graduates. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers’ Job Outlook 2012 survey, employers plan to hire 9.5 percent more graduates from the class of 2012 than they hired from the class of 2011. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a growing demand for jobs in health care, customer service and sales, biomedical engineering, and management and technology consulting. Based on our own interactions with recruiters, I believe that there will be a growing demand for information technology skills particularly as applied to health care, financial services and energy. I want to end on a note of optimism since entrepreneurs historically use an economic downturn as a time of opportunity.  According to the Kauffman Foundation, 565,000 new businesses were created in 2010 — the most in 15 years. As a state, we have a robust tradition of entrepreneurship and many will capitalize on trends such as business services that use collaborative technologies, consumer demand for the customization of products and services, services for our aging population, and support for our increasingly mobile lifestyle.”

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Sheldon Lubar
Lubar & Co., Milwaukee

“The single thing all agree on is there is great uncertainty in the world. The European currency and financial markets are in jeopardy, emerging market economies have slowed because of the problems in the Western economies, and here in the U.S. we suffer from a dysfunctioning Congress and a lack of leadership from our president. Despite these circumstances, I have cautious optimism for 2012 in the U.S. Employment is increasing and GDP is on the upswing. All of the companies we work with continue to produce solid gains. Their most difficult problems are hiring capable workers. Our country needs better training and incentives for people willing to work. The experts see U.S. growth in 2012 of 1 to 2 percent. I believe it will be better.”

Michael Lovell
Chancellor, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

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“Mark Zandi, the chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, has been quite accurate the past few years, and his forecast is for sluggish economic growth in 2012. Economist Jan Hatzius at Goldman Sachs agrees. Our recovery significantly depends on events outside the country, such as whether China slows down its purchase of our debt, and whether Europe slumps further, slowing U.S. imports in that direction. The United States has earned the status of safe haven for global investors, which will help us keep this slow recovery going. Slowly, the U.S. economy is re-emerging as the strongest.

“To an engineer like me, the key questions for next year are: What are we doing locally now to foster growth and to be ready to grow along with the national economy? Are we making the key infrastructure and educational investments now so that Wisconsin gets its share of GDP growth? Is the education system providing the foundation people will need to compete globally?

“At UW-Milwaukee, 2012 is going to be a year of growth, with more students and additional facilities for research and teaching. Right now, we have planning under way on nearly as much in capital projects as we have had over the preceding two decades. That means construction-related jobs now and the high potential for additional research and academic investments in our community during the years to come.”

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