Manufacturers optimistic about 2012

Midwest manufacturers performed better in 2011 than in 2010, and expect sales and revenue to be even better in 2012, according to a recent survey.
The National Economic Trends Survey was conducted by Waukesha-based MRA, The Management Association. It included 570 manufacturing and non-manufacturing companies from Wisconsin, Illinois and Iowa.
About 66 percent of manufacturing respondents are planning significant investments to hire more employees, increase pay and/or get new equipment in 2012.
Overall, 92 percent of companies expect the economy to be the same or better this year compared to last year.
Individually, manufacturers were more confident in their prospects for 2012, with 77 percent expecting an increase in sales. Only 61 percent of non-manufacturing companies said the same.
More than half of respondents in each group said worries about continued economic decline is the largest barrier to job creation.
In addition, 68 percent of manufacturers and 40 percent of non-manufacturers plan to implement lean and process improvement initiatives to reduce costs this year. Also, 31 percent of manufacturers and 19 percent of non-manufacturers plan to shift a larger percentage of healthcare costs to employees.
Very few respondents expected layoffs or company shutdowns in 2012.
Rod Winter, president and CEO of New Berlin-based Wausau Equipment Company Inc., completed the survey.
The company, which makes heavy duty snow removal equipment, added 6,300 square feet to its Fond du Lac facility last year and has had 20 percent growth for each of the last two years.
“Most companies are expecting more growth in the current year as the economic conditions improve gradually,” Winter said. “Especially in the manufacturing sector, it seems like many manufacturing companies in Wisconsin are showing signs of improved growth.”

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