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December 17, 2013

2013 First Business Economic Survey Results of Dane County

Executive Summary:

  • Businesses in Dane County are projecting higher Profitability in 2014 across all the sectors, which was only seen in 2010 and 2013 projections in the past ten years.
    • Among all the sectors, Retail, Service and Other businesses in Dane County project statistically significant higher Profitability in 2014 compared to 2013.
  • Statistically significant higher Capacity Utilization is reported by Dane County businesses in 2013. 37.3% of businesses utilized at least 90% of their capacity, exceeding the 2007 pre-recession level and reaching the peak since 2006.
  • Although the changes are not statistically significant, more businesses reported that they performed beyond expectations (26.3% in 2013 vs. 23.1% in 2012), reaching the highest level since 2004. The percentage of businesses reporting they performed below expectations was slightly higher than last year (36.4% in 2013 vs. 32.3% in 2012) but still below pre-recession levels.
    • Increased Sales Efforts, Improved Internal Efficiencies and Increased Marketing Efforts are reported as top three actions attributed to improved company performance in 2013.
    • Domestic Sales Shortfall, Higher Operating Costs and Rising Gas Prices remain as the top three reasons for low performance this year compared to 2012. Although Dane County businesses reported lower Operating Cost in 2013, more low-performing businesses were facing Higher Operating Costs issue in the past two years.
    • Slow Down in Housing Market is no longer among top five reasons compared to previous years.
  • Although not statistically significant, approximately 80% of businesses in Dane County are expecting better performance in 2014, which is very close to pre-recession level. It is important to note that 80% is the highest level since 2007 and the third highest since 2004.
  • Employment is trending up for Dane County with increases in both Wages and Number of Employees, although the changes are not statistically significant.
    • There is a declining four year trend in the percent of companies reporting decreases in employment from 39.8% to 17.4% in 2013.
    • Although still above 2007 pre-recession levels, there is a four year declining trend in firms that reported decreased Wages (from 23.2% in 2009 to 8.9% in 2013).  More than half of Dane County businesses reported increased Wages for 2013 (54.9%; up ~ 4%), continuing a three year rising trend.
  • In 2013, Dane County businesses continue an upward trend in Sales Revenue started in 2010.  Though not statistically significant, 2.21% more businesses reported increased Sales Revenue compared to last year.
  • While not statistically significant, Operating Cost as a percentage of Revenue in Dane County is going down from 2012 to 2013. A three-year upward trend in number of firms reporting increases in Operating Cost was reversed this year (decreasing from 59.2% in 2012 to 54.8% in 2013).
  • Consistent with last year, about half of the businesses reported increasing prices.  Although not statistically significant, fewer Dane County businesses in 2013 reported decreases in pricing compared to 2012 (down from 9.1% last year to 6.7%). 

This was the eleventh year for the study.  The survey was sent to 5,204 businesses in Dane County that were reported to have five or more employees and was addressed to the CEO, CFO, President, and/or business owner.  A total of 359 surveys were returned, which equates to a response rate of approximately 6.90 percent. The survey asked respondents to evaluate the current, and predict the future performance of their businesses on eight key economic indicators in each of the following areas: Sales Revenue, Profitability, Total Operating Costs as a % of Revenue, Capital Expenditures, Number of Employees, Overall Wage Change, Change in Pricing, and Operating Capacity.

Click here to download the full survey report. 

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