Survey shows northeast Wisconsin businesses are bullish about 2015

Wisconsin businesses responding to the annual First Business Economic Survey are reporting widespread and robust financial results for the end of the year and are remarkably bullish about their prospects for 2015.

The survey results were released Tuesday at the New North Summit. Each fall, First Business takes the pulse of local businesses in northeast Wisconsin, Dane County and the greater Milwaukee area. The survey focuses on the current year’s actual and next year’s predicted: sales revenue, total operating costs, capital expenditures, profitability, number of employees, changes in wages, and changes in pricing.

“I knew the results would be positive, but it surprised me just how positive they were,” said Mickey Noone, president of the northeast region of First Business Bank. “Businesses in northeast Wisconsin are reporting record-level sales and profitability, and coupling that with strong optimism about 2015. They’re reporting further increases in sales, profits, hiring, and wages. The outlook for 2015 is strongly optimistic.”

A summary of the northeast Wisconsin findings released at the New North Summit includes:

– A record high 95 percent of businesses project better performance in 2015, projecting overall a positive outlook for next year.

– A significantly higher percentage of businesses, 64 percent in 2014, reported increased sales revenue, compared with 51 percent in 2013.

– The percentage of northeast Wisconsin businesses reporting increased profitability went up significantly from 39 percent in 2013 to 54 percent in 2014. Businesses targeting the northeast Wisconsin region also reported a significant increase in profitability from 40 percent in 2013 to 61 percent in 2014. A significantly lower percentage of businesses in each of the target segments reported a decrease in profitability in 2014.

– A slightly higher percentage of companies reported increased operating cost in 2014.

– While not significant, the percentage of businesses reporting an increased capital expenditure went up to 42 percent in 2014 from 39 percent in 2013.

– The percentage of northeast Wisconsin businesses reporting an increase in number of employees saw a statistically significant increase to 50 percent in 2014 from 23 percent in 2013.

– At least 60 percent within all sectors reported increased wages in 2014, while 52 percent of all businesses reported an Increase in pricing.

– While not statistically significant, a higher percentage of northeast Wisconsin businesses reported exceeding expected performance, 25 percent in 2014 compared with 20 percent in 2013. Slightly higher than last year, around 44 percent of northeast Wisconsin businesses were able to meet their expectations in 2014.

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