Uncertainty is the new normal for 2012

Every December, I have the distinct honor to meet with the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce’s Council of Small Business Executives (COSBE) board of directors for an editor’s forum.

It’s a chance to let these business leaders know what’s new with BizTimes Media and to hear what’s new with their companies. I consider these folks to be our publication’s de facto board of directors, and their insights help us keep tabs on which way the winds are blowing.

And as 2011 draws to a close and 2012 rises in the horizon, suffice to say those winds are swirling.
For starters, I was amazed by a show of hands that nearly all of the COSBE directors now have mobile tablets. That justifies our previous cover story about the need for businesses to develop mobile strategies.

As we went around the room, the executives gave updates about their companies. Here is a sampling of what’s new.

Dave Kliber of S-F Analytical Laboratories Inc. in New Berlin said his company feels the price pressures its customers are coping with.

Connie Roethel of Core Health Group in Mequon said more companies are launching employee wellness programs as medical costs continue to spike.

Rick Parra of Pieper Electric Inc. in Milwaukee said his firm’s industrial clients are faring well, but the downtown office market remains soft.

Mequon entrepreneur Richard Blomquist said most of the small business owners he speaks to are “a lot happier today than they were a couple years ago.”

Paul Sweeney of PS. Capital Partners LLC in Milwaukee said the prospects for the American automotive industry and its suppliers are “fantastic.”

Mike Malatesta of Advanced Waste Services Inc. in West Allis said he sees growth in the environmental sector.

Mary Isbister of GenMet in Mequon, Debra Kessler of Palermo Villa Inc. in Milwaukee and Jeffrey Clark of Waukesha Metal Products each said they see challenges in finding skilled labor in the region.

David Werner of Park Bank in Milwaukee said banks are competing again to provide financing for business growth, but lending for commercial real estate development remains a challenge.

Nancy Hernandez of Abrazo Multicultural Marketing said corporate clients are increasingly engaging in digital strategies to reach minority audiences.

Arvid “Dick” Tilmar of West Allis said a wealth of affordable talent is available off the bench from independent consultants who were cast aside in the Great Recession.

Gary Zimmerman of Creative Business Interiors Inc. in Milwaukee said he is seeing rising demands for “pre-owned” office furniture.

Perhaps Kliber and COSBE chairman Mary Scheibel drew the strongest affirmation from their colleagues when they spoke about their concerns over the uncertainties of doing business in 2012.

Kliber lamented about the uncertainties over “taxes, regulations and the toxic political environment.” If this is the “new normal,” it’s nothing to cheer about, Kliber said.

Many COSBE directors nodded in agreement.

BizTimes will try to sort through those uncertainties at the Northern Trust Economic Trends Breakfast at the Italian Conference Center in downtown Milwaukee on Jan. 20. We invite you to join us (www.biztimes.com/trends).

Steve Jagler is executive editor of BizTimes Milwaukee.

Sign up for BizTimes Daily Alerts

Stay up-to-date on the people, companies and issues that impact business in Milwaukee and Southeast Wisconsin

No posts to display