December 15, 2010

Milwaukee-Waukesha County Businesses Saw Modest Improvements in 2010

(BROOKFIELD, WI) - December 15, 2010 - Milwaukee and Waukesha County businesses saw moderate improvements in 2010, but continue to face challenges, according to a report released today by First Business Bank at the invitation-only First Business Economic Forum.

The First Business Economic Survey of Milwaukee and Waukesha Counties, sponsored by First Business Bank and Carroll University, and conducted by the A.C. Nielsen Center for Marketing Research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Business, showed that 48 percent of businesses did not meet self-imposed expectations for 2010.

While profitability improved - nearly 39 percent of businesses indicated an increase in profitability for 2010 compared to only 21 percent in 2009 - nearly half of businesses reported decreased profitability in 2010.
In addition, the majority of businesses saw an increase in operating costs as a percent of revenue.

On a positive note, it seems personnel reductions from the down economy have already hit the low mark. Job growth continues to move upward as about 71 percent of respondents indicated maintaining or increasing employees in 2010. Wages also rebounded somewhat, with 37 percent of companies increasing wages in 2010, compared to only 28 percent in 2009. Expectations show 50 percent of companies expect to increase wages in the coming year.

"This is really a tale of two economies - a dismal 2009 with much stronger expectations for 2011," says Tom Hefty, retired chairman & CEO of Cobalt Corporation, and its subsidiary, BlueCross BlueShield United of Wisconsin. "This is a year of transition. The silver lining for 2010 is that the manufacturing sector is seeing some signs of exceptional strength."

Across almost all economic indicators, manufacturing businesses reported much greater improvement than other sectors. The percentage of manufacturers reporting sales revenue increases jumped more than four fold in 2010, from 13 percent in 2009 to 60 percent in 2010. In addition, more than 52 percent of manufacturing businesses saw increased profitability in 2010.

"Milwaukee and Waukesha County businesses have learned and implemented management strategies in the poor economy that are paying off," says Dave Vetta, President and CEO of First Business Bank - Milwaukee. "While we are not out of the woods, businesses are moving in the right direction."

Each year the survey asks a current event question. In 2010, businesses were asked what techniques they used to weather the downturn in the economy. The number one response from businesses was "improving internal efficiencies". More than half of respondents indicated this was a major force that
made the greatest difference in getting through the tough economy.

First Business Bank has been conducting the economic survey of Milwaukee and Waukesha Counties for the past three years. The survey was based on the responses of 628 businesses across the two counties. The sample size has an error range of 5 percent and a confidence level of 95 percent. Full survey results are available by clicking here.

First Business Bank - Milwaukee was established in 2000 to provide a full range of commercial banking services to Milwaukee-area businesses and business people. It is chartered as a unit bank with a CEO, not a branch president, and a board of directors rather than an advisory board. This structure allows it to understand Milwaukee-area businesses and respond quickly and proactively to their needs. For additional information, call 262-792-1400.

Editor’s note: A live web video stream and blog of the event is being provided by Carroll University. The web streaming begins at 8:00 a.m. at

For a third party response to the survey, please contact Elizabeth (Betsy) Falk at the Department of Workforce Development at 262.638.6602 or
About First Business Financial Services, Inc.

First Business Financial Services, Inc. (Nasdaq:FBIZ) is a Wisconsin-based bank holding company, focused on the unique needs of businesses, business executives, and high net worth individuals. First Business offers commercial banking, specialty finance, and private wealth management solutions, and because of its niche focus, is able to provide its clients with unmatched expertise, accessibility, and responsiveness. For additional information, visit or call (608) 238-8008.

The First Business Financial Services, Inc. logo is available at

Jodie Johnson
AVP - Marketing
First Business Financial Services, Inc.