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A.C. Nielsen Center Surveys Shows Increased Sales Statewide

by Staff Tuesday, December 20, 2011

According to the First Business Economic Survey surveys of Wisconsin released this month, 45% of businesses in the state reported increased sales in 2011. Undertaken by the A.C. Nielsen Center for Marketing Research, the surveys were based on responses from 337 businesses in Dane county, 500 businesses in Milwaukee and Waukesha counties, and 386 businesses in that state’s northeastern region. The surveys are sponsored by First Business Bank. By and large, in 2011, trends were similar to 2010’s. Click here to view the full report.

Northeastern Wisconsin’s businesses performed somewhat better than the other regions—boasting the highest percentage firms reporting increased sales revenue, profitability employment, wages, and pricing. The area also projected increased capital expenditures in 2012; 42% firms did. Comparatively, 31% of Dane county firms and 33% of Milwaukee and Waukesha county businesses made such projections.

“In Northeast Wisconsin, results were led by increases in sale, profitability and employment numbers,” First Business Bank – Northeast Mickey Noone president said.  “Manufacturing continues to be the driver in the Northeast and although indications are a steady improvement, there is still caution as we move into 2012.”

The Northeastern region’s projections for 2012 appear the most optimistic—75% of firms anticipate better performance next year.  In terms of employment, though, more than 40% of businesses in all regions noted they are not hiring.  Firms that are hiring claim the greatest demand is for tech school graduates.

“The labor issue is especially pronounced in Milwaukee and Waukesha Counties,” First Business Bank - Milwaukee President and CEO Dave Vetta said. “There seems to be a real disconnect between the positions available and the applicants to fill those positions.  This will be a challenge moving forward.”

“Dane County businesses certainly have seen challenges in the last several years,” First Business Bank – Madison President & CEO Mark Meloy said. “And although down from prior years, 67% of Dane County firms are expecting better business performance next year. Their resilience and perseverance will likely serve them well.”

The survey is administered by the A.C. Nielsen Center for Marketing Research at the University of Wisconsin, and mailed to business owners, CEOs, and CFOs at companies with five or more employees in three major business regions in Wisconsin: Dane County, Milwaukee and Waukesha Counties combined, and the 18 counties that make up northeastern Wisconsin. The survey asks respondents to evaluate the current, and predict the future performance of their businesses on eight key economic indicators: sales revenue, operating costs, capital expenditures, profitability, staffing, wages, pricing, and operating capacity. The local results are presented at Economic Forums each December.

“Overall, Wisconsin is faring relatively well in these uncertain economic times,” Corey Chambas, President & CEO of First Business Financial Services, the Wisconsin-based holding company for the First Business Banks, said. “2011 continued to provide challenges for Wisconsin businesses; however there are signs that Wisconsin businesses are not only surviving, but improving.  The Northeast continues to lead the way with a strong manufacturing base and firms in Dane County and Milwaukee and Waukesha Counties are showing steady improvements in virtually every economic indicator.”

• Businesses targeting Dane county reported a 51% increase in sales revenue
• 37% reported an increase in capital expenditures—this is at pre-recession levels
• 23.24% of business targeting Dane county reported increases in employees; the rate in 2010 was 12.25%
• 48.99% reported increased wages in 2011; the rate in 2010 was 38.2%

Milwaukee and Waukesha
• 53% of businesses in the manufacturing sector experienced increased profitability; only 29% to 36% of other sectors reported increased profitability
• 19% of businesses reported decreased employee numbers; previously, 29% and 49% of businesses decreased employee numbers in 2010 and 2009, respectively
• Nearly half all respondents reported increased wages; in 2010, 37% did
• However, 52.5% of businesses indicated they are not hiring

• 56% of businesses reported increased wages; this was not a significant increase from the previous year
• Employment numbers remain stable, with a slight increase in firms reporting an increase in number of employees
• 45% of businesses reported increased profitability in 2011; however, 40% reported decreased profitability
• 41% of firms report they are not currently hiring

First Business Bank has sponsored an economic survey of Dane county for the past nine years; the surveys of both northeastern Wisconsin and Milwaukee and Waukesha counties have been conducted for the past four years. The sample size of both has an error range of five percent and a confidence level of 95 percent.
For the Milwaukee and Waukesha county survey, Carroll University was a co-sponsor. Insight Publications and NorthStar Economics assisted with research for the northeast survey.
First Business Bank was established in 1990. Its holding company First Business Financial Services is Wisconsin’s second-largest commercial bank holding company listed on NASDAQ or the NYSE.

The A.C. Nielsen Center for Marketing Research has worked with First Business Bank on the First Business Economic Survey for the past nine years through the Center’s student consulting program. A.C. Nielsen Center students are available for consulting projects during their four semesters in the MBA program.  Consulting projects are in addition to a student’s coursework, and are given as a result of receiving a merit-based scholarship. 

Each fall three A.C. Nielsen Center students are assigned the First Business Bank economic survey and fully execute the project throughout the semester including writing the survey, determining the sample, distribution (mail & on-line), data collection, analysis and summarizing findings. 

This fall, 2nd year project lead Amanda Decker and 1st year students S. Omar Jobe and Cally Thornton managed the project.  Amanda notes that "it is great that the A.C. Nielsen Center has partners like the First Business Bank, which has sponsored student projects for almost 10 years."  Prior to starting the program, Amanda worked at KMPG LLP as an IT Attestation Senior Associate and she spent her summer as an intern at Janssen, Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson in New Jersey.  Amanda worked on both qualitative and quantitative research projects for Janssen’s HIV portfolio. 

Cally and Omar started their MBA this fall semester.  Omar recently completed his Ph.D. in Endocrinology and Reproductive Physiology here at the University of Wisconsin and previously worked for Medtronic.  Omar is excited to be able to couple his scientific research experience with his interest in consumer insights through the program.  “The FBB project provided me with a great understanding of the current economic climate of Wisconsin-Madison as well as a cause for optimism for the economy overall in the coming year” states Jobe.

Cally, a graduate of the University of Notre Dame, came to the A.C. Nielsen Center from Target, where she was most recently a Planning Manager.  Cally’s insatiable curiosity led her to A.C. Nielsen Center’s marketing research MBA program at the Wisconsin School of Business.  In sharing her experiences on the project, Cally said "this survey was a great learning experience because as a team, we had the chance to execute a market research project from survey concept to data analysis. I enjoyed working on something that was immediately applicable to the current economic environment and it was exciting to see the articles in the press about the work that we did."