First Business Bank: Economic survey of northeast Wisconsin indicates increased sales and profitability in 2012

Contact: Kathy Epping, 608-333-4406
For interviews with First Business executives, contact Jodie Johnson at 920-734-1800.

Sales to Northeast Markets Show Best Improvements

(APPLETON, WI) – December 7, 2012 – Northeast Wisconsin Businesses saw increased sales revenue and profitability in 2012, according to a report released today by First Business Bank at the New North Summit.

The First Business Economic Survey of Northeast Wisconsin sponsored by First Business Bank and conducted by the A.C. Nielsen Center for Marketing Research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Business, and Insight Publications showed positive increases in many of the key economic indicators surveyed.

The report indicates that in many cases Northeast firms have reached levels comparable to 2008 in headcount, sales revenue and profitability. Northeast businesses that focus on the Northeast and Wisconsin saw the biggest increases in sales revenue; 58 percent (up from 50 percent) and 66 percent (up from 53 percent) respectively.

“The Northeast is showing growth in several areas,” says Dennis Winters, Chief of the Office of Economic Advisors, Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development. “More companies are showing growth in sales and profits. It will continue to be a slow, steady climb, but the data shows progress in reaching pre-recession levels in many of the key economic indicators.”

In terms of profitability, manufacturing continues to be the driver with 57 percent of businesses reporting an increase in profitability compared to 41 percent in 2011. Not surprisingly, manufacturing also shows an increase in wages in 2012, with 79 percent of businesses reporting an increase compared to 62 percent in 2011.

“The manufacturing sector is showing steady growth in the New North,” says Mickey Noone, President – Northeast Region of First Business Bank. “Businesses in other areas are following the manufacturing lead, a good sign for the region.”

Another key economic indicator, capital expenditures, was little changed from last year. However, the percentage of retail businesses showing an increase in capital expenditures jumped from 39 percent in 2011 to more than 72 percent in 2013. Another indicator, headcount remained steady with more than 34 percent of firms reporting increases in headcount, the highest percentage since 2008. More than 93 percent of businesses project either unchanged or increased headcount for next year.

In addition to major indicators being steady or on the rise, only 32 percent of Northeast Wisconsin businesses performed below expectations in 2012. Winters says that’s an encouraging sign worth noting.

Each year the survey asks a current event question. In 2012, the question addressed the current economic and political climate on Northeast Businesses. The majority of Northeast firms expect the current economic and political climate to continue to pose uncertainty for performance and have similar effects on business performance for 2013.

Despite the uncertainty, 83 percent of businesses expect performance will be better in 2013.

“There is definitely optimism in the air,” says Noone.

First Business Bank has been conducting the economic survey of Northwest Wisconsin for the past four years. The survey was based on the responses of 386 businesses across the county. The sample size has an error range of 5 percent and a confidence level of 95 percent. Full survey results are available under “Newsroom” at

First Business Bank – Northeast is headquartered at 3913 W. Prospect Avenue in Appleton. In addition to offering commercial loan products, First Business Bank – Northeast offers a full line of deposit, investment, and equipment finance products through its affiliates First Business Bank – Madison and First Business Trust & Investments. Among these products are: remote deposit, treasury management, Internet banking, retirement plans, investment management services, trust services, asset-based lending, and equipment finance and leasing. For additional information, visit or call 920-734-1800.

Please find an Executive Summary on the following page.