First Business: Local economic survey shows business owners report record-level positive performance in 2014

(APPLETON, WI) – December 2, 2014 – The results of the annual First Business Economic Survey were released today at New North Summit. Each Fall, First Business takes the pulse of local businesses through an annual economic survey 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.

First Business has annually underwritten the survey to help business owners achieve a broad based and up-to-date understanding of the local business climate, which includes information that can be utilized in planning for the coming year.

“I knew the results would be positive,” commented Mickey Noone, President – Northeast Region of First Business Bank, “but it surprised me just how positive they were. 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 significantly higher percentage of businesses, 64% in 2014, reported increased Sales Revenue, compared to 51% in 2013.

– The percentage of Northeast Wisconsin businesses reporting increased Profitability went up significantly from 39% in 2013 to 54% in 2014. Businesses targeting the Northeast Wisconsin region also reported a significant increase in Profitability from 40% in 2013 to 61% 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% in 2014 from 39% in 2013.

– The percentage of Northeast Wisconsin businesses reporting an increase in Number of Employees saw a statistically significant increase to 50% in 2014 from 23% in 2013.

– At least 60% within all sectors reported increased Wages in 2014, while 52% of all businesses reported an Increase in Pricing.

– In terms of Capacity Utilization, 41% of businesses reported capacity at 90% or higher in 2014 compared to just 31% in 2013; a statistically significant increase.

– While not statistically significant, a higher percentage of Northeast Wisconsin businesses reported Exceeding Expected Performance, 25% in 2014 compared to 20% in 2013. Slightly higher than last year, around 44% of Northeast Wisconsin businesses were able to meet their Expectations in 2014.

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

Download the full First Business Economic Survey Report for Northeast Wisconsin at