Manufacturing is the bright spot in southeastern Wisconsin’s economic outlook

A majority of manufacturers in southeastern Wisconsin have posted revenue gains in 2010 and most are optimistic about future gains next year, according to the 2010 First Business Economic Survey. The survey was conducted by First Business Financial Services Inc., the corporate parent of First Business Bank-Milwaukee.

Almost 60 percent of manufacturers who responded to this year’s survey said their companies experienced sales growth this year. Only 13 percent reported sales growth in 2009.

“Manufacturing showed the best profitability by sector,” said Tom Hefty, retired chairman of Cobalt Corp. and its subsidiary, BlueCross BlueShield of Wisconsin, who presented the survey results at a forum held last week.

“And it should show continued improvement for next year.”

Manufacturers have made gains on the employment side this year. In 2009’s survey, 63 percent of manufacturers said they had decreased employment for the year. This year, about 29 percent said they’d decreased employment for the year. However, 44 percent said their company’s employment levels have not changed, and 27 percent said their companies had added workers this year.

Profitability has grown significantly for the manufacturing sector this year – 52 percent of the manufacturers surveyed this year said their companies were profitable this year, compared to less than 18 percent in 2009.

For 2011, more than 57 percent of those in the manufacturing sector expect to see increased profitability, the survey said.

“Manufacturing is the largest industry here (in southeastern Wisconsin),” Hefty said. “The sector is up and has good projections for 2011.”

To watch a video presentation of the survey results, visit

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