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January 23, 2018

6/5/2012 5:15:00 AM
Report: Business leaders upbeat about Wisconsin
95 percent say state headed in right direction

Richard Moore
Investigative Reporter

More than 60 percent of business leaders responding to an annual survey conducted by Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce say they plan to hire workers in the next six months. Only a small number say they plan layoffs.

According to the survey of 182 businesses, 62 percent said they will bolster their work force numbers; only 2 percent said they will downsize. That compares to only 44 percent in December who said they will hire within six months, and 53 percent a year earlier.

According to the WMC - the state's largest business association representing more than 3,500 employers - chief executive officers in Wisconsin appear buoyed by an improved business climate.

In other findings in the Economic Outlook Survey, which was conducted in early May, 51 percent of WMC members indicated they will expand their operations in the Badger state in the next two years. That's the highest percentage in more than a decade, dwarfing the 18 percent who said they will expand in another state or nation during the same period.

Kurt R. Bauer, WMC president and CEO, said an "astounding" 95 percent of the CEOs surveyed said the state is headed in the right direction.

"Wisconsin businesses are creating jobs close to home for our families," Bauer said. "Our business climate is improving. Executives are confident about the direction of our state and they are investing in their businesses, creating jobs and raising wages. Our state is headed in the right direction."

Sooner rather than later

Bauer said some of the job creation will take place in the next six months, with 62 percent reporting they will create jobs through the end of the year.

"Businesses in our state clearly are responding to an improved business climate brought about by tax cuts, regulation relief and lawsuit reform passed at the Capitol in the last two years," he said. "Wisconsin's unemployment rate is below the national average. Job creation is up, and we are at the vanguard of an economic recovery that is built on the principles of limited government and sustainable spending. The business community is responding with jobs for our families."

Wages also will be on the rise, the CEOs indicated. Some 62 percent of those surveyed predicted wage hikes from 2.1 percent to 3.5 percent this year. Some 31 percent said they will raise wages by 3 percent to 3.5 percent.

Another 73 percent predicted moderate to good growth in their own companies. That same number predicted that the state's economy will expand at a moderate to good rate, while 69 percent said the growth would be moderate.

Also, the state's exports remain strong, with 49 percent reporting the export of products and 43 percent saying that exports comprise 25 percent of their business. That's up dramatically from a low of 24 percent in 2009, the WMC reported. In addition, 31 percent predicted an increase in exports in the next year.

New numbers last week from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. support the survey responses. Wisconsin's exports grew by 12 percent in the first quarter of 2012 compared to 2011, the WEDC reported. The state's exports totaled $5.8 billion in the first quarter of 2012.

"The first-quarter increase in exports maintains a trend of increases in Wisconsin exports," WEDC secretary Paul Jadin said. "Exports to our top export markets, and significant growth in countries like Russia, continue to provide opportunities for Wisconsin businesses."

Industrial machinery exports, the top state export, increased 21 percent, WEDC reported. The increase was driven by strong performance in top parts of machinery, transmission shafts and cranks, self-propelled bulldozers, harvesting machines and internal combustion piston engines.

Agricultural exports were $700 million in the first quarter, a 16-percent increase over 2011, the agency stated.

Economic headwinds

But while business leaders were feeling optimistic, the WMC noted that concerns remain.

For example, the organization noted that the national economic slowdown continues to vex Wisconsin employers. More than 35 percent said the national economy is the top problem for the state and for their own companies.

And while large numbers of executives are predicting at least moderate growth for Wisconsin, they are not so sure about the rate nationally. Only 44 percent predicted moderate to good growth for the national economy, and 50 percent said the national economy will remain flat.

What's more, in a familiar refrain from both the business community and the administration of Gov. Scott Walker, more than 56 percent reported having trouble hiring workers. Some 61 percent cited a lack of qualified applicants.

The CEOs did have suggestions for further improving the state economy.

More than 30 percent said the state should be "be more pro-business in general." CEOs also want taxes cut and regulations streamlined.

Still, they said, the state's business climate over the past year has been better than it has been in a long time.

More than 80 percent said Wisconsin state government is now pro-business, with 39 percent describing the state as very pro-business. In June 2010, WMC pointed out, only 7 percent of WMC members believed the state was pro-business.

WMC noted that CEO Magazine recently reported that Wisconsin's business climate has improved to No. 20 in the nation, up from No. 41 only two years ago.

"The word is out from Main Street to Wall Street that Wisconsin is the place to create jobs and expand a business," Bauer said.

Richard Moore may be reached at richardmoore.gov@gmail.com

Reader Comments

Posted: Thursday, June 7, 2012
Article comment by: kevin hansen

Great ! Then we won't need atvs after all to save our businesses !

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