When Dave Vetta, president and CEO of First Business Bank-Milwaukee, launched the First Business Economic Survey for the Greater Milwaukee Region in 2008, he had no idea that it would document an historic benchmark. It was early in the Great Recession and the data didn’t look good. “But it turned out to be a significant place to start measuring regional activity from” says Vetta. “We’ve come so far in seven years, and we’ve got the numbers to track it.”
Now in its seventh year, the First Business Economic Survey delivers an annual snapshot of southeastern Wisconsin’s middle market business owners’ predictions for the year ahead. In addition, the survey results include the prior year’s and other historic data, creating a map of regional economic trends.
The release of the survey, by design, coincides with the annual Key Industries panel discussion, held this year on December 11 at the Country Springs Hotel in Pewaukee.
Over time, attendance has grown from about 75 in 2008 to over 400, on average, today. For the last four years, Governor Scott Walker has spoken to attendees about economic trends in both the region and the state.
From the beginning, the Waukesha County Business Alliance (WCBA) and BizTimes Milwaukee have been partners.
“Our objectives were aligned” said Vetta, “to get to the pulse of what’s happening in the business community and provide a forum for understanding those results in a dynamic environment.”
WCBA president Suzanne Kelley says the survey can be a valuable tool for regional business leaders. “The ability to look at region-specific economic trends – across multiple industries – is an invaluable resource for not only our members, but for companies throughout southeastern Wisconsin.”
Vetta agrees. “We’ve always wanted to make sure people walked away with something meaningful to apply. It’s rare to get business owners together to talk about business, and we’ve achieved this.”
As in past years, the 2015 panel featured five business leaders representing different industries – and perspectives. See what they have to say – as well as photos from the 2015 Key Industries panel and a breakdown of key survey highlights – on the pages that follow.