Every year, I have the great honor of being invited to attend an editors forum with the board of directors of the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce's Council of Small Business Executives (COSBE).
I often refer to these folks as BizTimes Milwaukee's de facto board of directors. They're the people we're writing about. They're the people we're writing for. And in some cases, they even contribute some of our writing.
It's a great way to keep our ears to the ground about what's happening in the local economy.
That's why BizTimes was among the first to declare that a recession had begun in 2008. That's why BizTimes was among the first to declare that the worst was behind us and a recovery had started at our Economic Trends Breakfast in January of 2010. And it's a key reason why BizTimes is among the first to declare that 2011 will be a strong year of recovery, exceeding most widespread expectations.
In an exclusive BizTimes online survey of COSBE board members recently, the majority of the respondents expect 2011 to be a year of more revenues, more hiring and more investments in technology or equipment for their companies.
When asked to describe their expectations for 2011, 63.2 percent replied it will be a "good" year, and 21.1 percent said it will be a "great" year. Furthermore, only 15.8 percent are forecasting a "flat" year, and none of them are predicting a "bad" year.
Other highlights of the survey include:
89.5 percent expect their companies' revenues to grow.
63.2 percent expect their companies to add to their workforce.
63.2 percent plan to hire temporary help.
52.6 percent expect to make significant investments in new technology or equipment.
At our editors forum, I asked the COSBE board members to describe the actions they are taking to grow their companies in 2011. Here is a sampling of their replies:
Mary Isbister, president of GenMet in Mequon, plans to "double" her business this year by adding talent, making capital investments and becoming a national player.
Mary Scheibel, principal at Scheibel Halaska Inc. in Milwaukee, who will be the next president of the COSBE board, said, "If I had to sum it up in one word, it would be to focus."
Wayne Staats, COE of Granville Business Development Center in Milwaukee, said his firm will continue acquiring other companies.
Susan Haise, CEO of Neroli Salon & Spa, is acquiring another building for her company's new headquarters in Milwaukee's Historic Third Ward.
Charles Engberg, partner at Engberg Anderson Inc. in Milwaukee, is investing in marketing.
Dave Kliber, CEO of S-F Analytical Laboratories Inc. in New Berlin, is targeting new business generated by the new federal food safety regulations.
Jerry Jendusa, CEO of Emteq Inc. in New Berlin, and Adonica Randall, president of Abaxent LLC in Pewaukee, are expanding their companies' product lines and geographic markets.
Arvid "Dick" Tilmar of Tilmar Connect in Whitefish Bay and Nancy Hernandez, president of Abrazo Multicultural Marketing, are differentiating their service offerings.
Christopher Rebholz, president of Christopher Morgan LLC in New Berlin, Robert McNamara, president of FJA Christiansen Roofing Co. Inc. in Milwaukee, Randi Becker of The Mark Travel Corp. in Milwaukee and Sarit Singhai, CEO of Superior Support Resources in Brookfield are investing in new technologies.
Connie Roethel, president of Core Health Group in Mequon, is helping companies help their employees handle the increased work loads and stress that take tolls on their health.
These folks are not standing still and waiting for the recovery to come to their business. They are taking their businesses to the recovery.
Steve Jagler is executive editor of BizTimes in Milwaukee and is past president of the Milwaukee Press Club. BizTimes provides news and operational insight for the owners and managers of privately held companies throughout southeastern Wisconsin.
Steve has won several journalism awards as a reporter, a columnist and an editor. He is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
When he is not pursuing the news, Steve enjoys spending time with his wife, Kristi, and their two sons, Justin and James. Steve can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.