— Oshkosh-area business leaders are more optimistic about Wisconsin’s business climate in 2024 than they were last year, a recent survey suggests.
The Oshkosh Chamber of Commerce’s latest annual survey found 75% of respondents feel the state is headed in the right direction, compared to 42% in the 2023 survey.
“They’re generally feeling very positive about where we’re headed in 2024,” Chamber President and CEO Rob Kleman said this week in an interview. “I think 2023 shaped up to be very positive as well from the results that we’ve seen here, but they believe that Oshkosh and our region, our area is doing well, and we’re in a position of strength.”
Fifty-eight percent of respondents said their 2023 sales had exceeded the previous year, while 65% had higher profits, 48% added jobs and 81% increased wages from 2022 levels.
Looking ahead to the rest of this year, 70% of respondents expect sales to outperform 2023 and 57% expect to hire more people in 2024.
Meanwhile, 76% of respondents rate their company’s outlook as “good to excellent” in the next six months. That rises to 89% for the next 12 months and 93% for the next one to three years.
And while 47% said they have unfilled job openings, that percentage has fallen from 55% in last year’s survey.
But local businesses continue to struggle with finding qualified workers, Kleman said. When asked about efforts to fill job openings in the past three months, 68% of respondents said they got four or fewer qualified applicants per opening and 14% had no qualified applicants.
Inflationary pressures are another top challenge among chamber members, according to Kleman.
“Although that has eased some from 2023,” he said. “And of course interest rates still come up as a concern and a challenge, although that seems to be stabilizing as well, with some prospects potentially for some interest rate reductions in 2024.”
The online survey was sent to all chamber members, and got responses from 50 business owners and executives. Kleman said this is a “very typical” response for the survey, which the chamber has been conducting annually for more than 30 years.
— The latest Marquette University Law School Poll found widespread support for legalizing medical marijuana among Wisconsin voters.
Eighty-six percent of respondents said they support legalizing marijuana for medical use, while 10% were opposed and 4% were unsure. That’s slightly stronger support than was seen in a previous survey from April 2019, when 83% were in favor and 12% were opposed, according to yesterday’s release.
Support for medical marijuana among surveyed Republicans was slightly lower — 78% — compared to Independents and Democrats, with 84% and 95% supporting it, respectively. And when asked about legalizing marijuana for any purpose, respondents were even more divided by political affiliation.
Across all respondents, 63% said they support legalizing marijuana and 29% were opposed. Those figures are similar to survey results from October 2022, the release shows.
But Republicans were evenly split in the latest survey, with 46% in favor and 46% opposed. Independents were 62% in favor and 27% against, while 83% of Democrats supported full legalization and 11% were against it.
These results come about a month after Assembly Republicans introduced medical marijuana legislation that would use five state-run dispensaries rather than private outlets. Senate Republicans have expressed opposition to the legislation over that provision.
Yesterday’s release also included responses on various presidential candidates and other topics.
See the full survey results.
— The Wisconsin Hospital Association Foundation has rolled out a new campaign aimed at getting more young people into the health care workforce.
In a release yesterday, the WHA Foundation announced the “So Many Options” campaign, which includes targeted digital advertising and a new website with information on dozens of careers in the medical field.
The career descriptions have details on the day-to-day routine, median pay in Wisconsin and projected growth in demand for the position.
The statewide campaign is targeting middle and high school students, featuring employees of Reedsburg Area Medical Center, ThedaCare Regional Medical Center in Appleton and Aurora St. Luke’s in Milwaukee as spokespeople.
“Whether young, prospective employees are looking for their first job or veteran health care workers are looking to transition careers, there are countless health care career options throughout Wisconsin’s hospitals, no matter a person’s background or vocational interest,” WHA President and CEO Eric Borgerding said in the release.
Top headlines from the Health Care Report…
— A group of health care organizations have announced the launch of the Wisconsin Institute of NeuroScience, a newly renamed effort to coordinate research and care delivery for neurological conditions in Milwaukee.
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— Rep. Jill Billings, D-La Crosse, and Sen. Brad Pfaff, D-Onalaska, are circulating a bill to allow proposed per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances groundwater standards rules to advance.
The proposal comes after the Department of Natural Resources paused the rulemaking in December upon finding the costs to implement it would exceed statutory limits by more than $23 million.
The REINS Act, signed into law by former GOP Gov. Scott Walker, requires legislative approval for administrative rules with costs of $10 million or more over any two-year period. LRB-5764/1 would create an exemption under the law for any proposed DNR rule to establish PFAS groundwater standards.
Peter Burress, government affairs manager for Wisconsin Conservation Voters, in a statement said it is “critical” to pass the legislation.
“Sen. Pfaff and Rep. Billings are doing the right thing for their constituents and Wisconsin while Republicans in the legislature stand silent and do nothing as people continue to be poisoned through no fault of their own,” Burress said.
PFAS, also known as “forever chemicals” are found in industrial and everyday products such as firefighting foam and non-stick cookware. They don’t break down easily and are linked to several diseases and cancers in humans.