Survey of Madison businesses highlights impact of labor shortages

A survey of Madison-area businesses shows labor shortages having a big impact on future growth.

In the survey, nearly one-third of respondents said they were held back from expanding their workforce this year due to talent shortages. 

The Fall 2021 Business Survey, which got responses from 305 businesses in the greater Madison region, found more respondents are pointing to limited access to talent and increased operating costs as barriers to business success. The survey is done by a coalition of business groups in the Madison area.

Of that number, 65 percent said limited access to talent is the top barrier to their business — more than double the 32 percent saying that in the spring survey. And 59 percent listed increased operating costs as a significant barrier, compared to 43 percent in the spring. 

The survey highlights a number of pandemic-related issues businesses are facing, including the impact of Dane County’s mask mandate, employees working from home and getting workers vaccinated. But Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce President Zach Brandon says the region is on the path to recovery despite these challenges. 

“With a wider availability of vaccines, consumer confidence on the rise, and many businesses experiencing revenue growth or looking to expand their workforce, there are reasons for optimism heading into 2022,” he said in a statement. 

Seventy-eight percent of respondents said their workforce is at least three-quarters fully vaccinated. 

Meanwhile, opinions are evenly split among for-profit businesses on Dane County’s indoor mask requirement, with 44 percent in favor and 44 percent opposed. And of those who said the mask requirement has impacted their business either positively or negatively, 71 percent said it has hurt their business. The county’s mask mandate was recently extended through Jan. 3. 

Thirty-four percent of respondents said government regulations represent a barrier for their business, while 30 percent pointed to a “lack of clarity in local government reopening plans.” 

About 65 percent of respondents reported revenue growth in 2021, although the 24 percent that reported revenue losses were “disproportionately” small businesses, a release shows. Madison Black Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Camille Carter says a lack of support for small businesses “remains a significant challenge.” 

The Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce, Destination Madison, Downtown Madison, Inc., the Madison Black Chamber of Commerce and the Latino Chamber of Commerce released the results of the survey, which was conducted online via email in partnership with the DeForest Windsor Area Chamber of Commerce, Fitchburg Chamber Visitor + Business Bureau, Middleton Chamber of Commerce and Verona Area Chamber of Commerce. 

Eighty percent of responding businesses have 50 or fewer employees, a release from these organizations shows. Ninety percent are headquartered in Dane County, while 74 percent have locations only in the county. Twenty-two percent are owned or led by someone who is part of an ethnic or racial minority, and 49 percent are owned or led by someone who identifies as a gender other than male. 

See more results here:

–By Alex Moe