Optimism In The Air

Posted on Jan 1, 2010 :: Features
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Posted by , Insight on Business Staff Writer

Businesses in the New North are predicting a better 2010 with higher profits and sales while also expanding their workforce.

A survey conducted by First Business Bank and the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh last fall of more than 350 area companies found that 85 percent of respondents predict a better 2010 with more than 50 percent predicting higher sales and predictability for the next 12 months. Survey results were shared in mid-December at the second annual First Business Economic Forum of Northeast Wisconsin, which was held in Appleton.

“Everyone is expecting things to improve in 2010. We are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel and the economy is going to be slowly on the upswing,” says Alan Hartman, a professor of management at UW-Oshkosh’s College of Business.

The good news for 2010 comes after a dreadful 2009. Across the board, companies in the survey reported lower profits, sales and capital expenditures. Forty-two percent of businesses also cut their workforce during 2009.

After a rough 2009, businesses are welcoming a more optimistic outlook on 2010.

“The optimism is really refreshing,” says John Porter, president and co-owner of Tracy Porter Interactive, a design house and retailer of Tracy Porter home décor, jewelry and lifestyle fashion in Green Lake County. “As a retailer of luxury goods – which are always the first to go – we may not be as optimistic, but we have seen some things with our fall catalog, which make us think things are on the upswing.”

Jack Fischer, owner and principal partner of Third Coast Consulting in Appleton and a former Commerce Secretary for the State of Wisconsin, says larger companies put steps in place during the past year such as trimming waste that will make them more successful as the economy comes back. The New North also benefits from having several strong companies, such as Oshkosh Corp., who “feed” smaller manufacturers throughout the area, he says.

“Northeast Wisconsin is blessed with strong manufacturers. We’ve been through a transition period for the past 15 years with the paper industry and the companies that survived are better and stronger,” Fischer says.

Mickey Noone, president of First Business Bank-Northeast, says he hopes the survey results help area companies as they look forward.

“This survey is a great way to glean information that otherwise would be difficult to gather – how companies are doing and what they’re expecting,” he says. “We are really seeing some positives in the New North that we’re coming out of this economic decline and this goes along with that.”

The First Business Economic Survey of Northeast Wisconsin, sponsored by First Business Bank, the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh and Insight Publications, was conducted by the A.C. Nielsen Center for Marketing Research at UW-Madison School of Business. The survey was conducted online with a total of 363 respondents. Professionals with the owner, president, CEO or CFO title were targeted.