First Business Financial Services: Nine out of ten Dane County business leaders predict positive 2019 performance

Contact: Jen Braico, Senior Content Strategist & Copywriter
First Business Financial Services, Inc.
[email protected]

MADISON, WIS. – Amid ongoing market fluctuations and international trade questions, Dane County business leaders reported outstanding performance in 2018 and near record-high predictions for 2019 in the annual First Business Bank Economic Survey.

Results of the 16th First Business Bank Economic Survey were released today at the Monona Terrace in Madison during the First Business Bank Dane County Local Economic Trends event. Each fall, First Business Bank surveys local businesses in Dane County, Greater Milwaukee, and Northeast Wisconsin. This year’s survey also included Kansas City for the first time.

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 Bank underwrites the survey to help business owners plan for the coming year.

“This is the fifth positive year in a row, and this year I’m impressed by the number of business leaders who said their 2018 performance exceeded their own expectations for this year,” said First Business Bank CEO Mark Meloy. “Last year, business leaders’ predictions for 2018 were very optimistic, so exceeding those is remarkable. Of particular note is the hiring activity in Dane County, which hit a record high this year over the past 16 years of our survey.”

Sales and profitability responses reflect an ongoing five-year trend as 2018 sales revenue tied the historic high observed in 2014, and profitability was very strong. The percentage of companies adding new employees marked a new historic high, as did the percentage of companies increasing wages.

Capital expenditures were also strong — 86% of companies increased or maintained their capital expenditure levels as compared to 80% last year.

The 2019 outlook is for yet another highly optimistic year. The percentage of companies that project increased sales is slightly higher, and, despite a slight decrease in the percentage projecting an increase in profits, profitability projections remain very strong. Hiring projections mark yet another historic high, and more than three quarters of companies project wages to further increase in 2019. Three quarters also expect overall business performance to further increase in 2019, while only 7% expect a decline.    

A summary of the Dane County findings presented at today’s economic forum include:

  • Continued strong sales and profitability performance in 2018
  • Hiring and wages saw a record increase; 82% report wage increases in 2018
  • 75% report a sales increase in 2018
  • 59% report actual price increases this year; 64% report expected price increases for 2019
  • 41% expect to increase capital expenditures in 2019
  • The outlook for 2019 is positive, with 93% of companies expecting improved or unchanged performance.

Download the full First Business Economic Survey Report for Dane County Wisconsin at