Business executives report a strong 2019

Posted on Dec 11, 2019 :: Insight on Business, Web Exclusive
Posted by of Insight Publications

Three out of four business executives in Northeast Wisconsin reported continued strong performance in 2019, up from 68 percent in 2018, according to results of the 11th annual First Business Bank Economic Survey in Northeast Wisconsin.

“Far from the gloom and doom that was predicted with the trade war and long, slow economic expansion, our data direct from business leaders in Northeast Wisconsin shows that our economic engines are humming along and predicting an even better 2020,” said Rick Hearden, Northeast Wisconsin Market president for First Business Bank. “This data is critical for local business owners to help plan their upcoming expansion and growth.”

Hiring and wages: The survey report shows strong hiring and wage results as 33 percent reported an increase in their number of employees and 83 percent saw an increase in wages. Another 18 percent of respondents reported a decrease in their number of employees, and 7 percent had a decrease in wages. Seventy-four percent predict higher wages still in 2020, nine points above the previous year’s projection, and 49 percent expect to add employees next year.

Sales and profitability: This year saw a dip in reported sales revenue increases as 56 percent of respondents reported a sales revenue increase, down from 80 percent in 2018. Reported profitability increases were lower compared to last year — 49 percent reported increased profits in 2019, down from 55 percent in 2018 (a record high). Looking ahead to 2020, 67 percent project an increase in profits.

Overall expectations: Business performance was positive compared to 2018: 29 percent reported better-than-expected performance, down from 35 percent in 2018, and 46 percent met expectations (up from 33 percent in 2018), bringing the total of respondents who met or exceeded expectations in 2019 to 75 percent, up from 68 percent in 2018.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, 25 percent reported worse-than-expected performance, which is down from 32 percent in 2018. Those who reported not meeting their expectations cited higher operating costs, followed closely by a skills shortage and a shortfall in domestic sales.

First Business Bank conducts surveys annually in Northeast Wisconsin, Southeast Wisconsin, the Madison area and the Kansas City area to help business owners plan for the coming year. The full report can be viewed at