Local CEOs, managers optimistic about 2012

Oshkosh Chamber news release

Local business owners and managers say they are optimistic about 2012 and are projecting higher revenue in the coming year, compared to 2011, according to a Business Outlook Survey conducted by the Oshkosh Chamber of Commerce.

“The annual survey is used as a means to gauge the local economic outlook by asking CEOs, business owners and business managers to project sales volume and other economic indicators,” said Oshkosh Chamber President/CEO John Casper. “The fact that 161 business leaders responded to the current survey—the most ever to respond—indicates that we are coming off of a good year, relative to 2009 and 2010, and that our prospects for the coming year are even better.”

Of the respondents, 63 percent predicted that 2012 sales revenue will surpass 2011 levels, and more than a quarter of the respondents forecast sales increases greater than 10 percent. In addition, 57 percent of the respondents predict that sales revenue in the first quarter of 2012 will surpass sales revenue in the fourth quarter of 2011.

Despite expecting higher sales volume, nearly half of the respondents said they would keep employment levels steady during 2012. Of the remainder of the respondents, 31 percent expect to add employees, while 21 percent expect employment levels to decline. However, 60 percent of the respondents said they expect wages and salaries to increase in 2012, while 22 percent said wages and salaries would remain stable.

The Oshkosh Chamber asked business leaders about the cost of providing health insurance to its employees. Sixty-five percent of respondents expect health insurance costs to rise in 2012. More than 40 percent of respondents said they would combat rising health care costs by changing the plan design, increasing deductibles, and/or increasing employee contributions. Five percent of respondents said they anticipate discontinuing an employee health insurance plan.

Among manufacturers, 41 percent said they expect raw material inventories to increase during the first quarter of 2012, while another 41 percent said they expect the volume to remain the same. This indicates that manufacturers anticipate the same or more orders during the first quarter as compared to the same time last year.

In light of the current contentious political climate, business leaders were asked their opinion on state and national politics. Three-quarters of the respondents said the State of Wisconsin is headed in the right political direction, while the United States is headed in the wrong political direction.

Business leaders also were asked to list the most critical issues facing their business. The top three responses were, in order, the economic/business climate, the political climate in the State of Wisconsin, and the cost of doing business.

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