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Signs of hope on the business dashboard

As 2011 draws to a murky conclusion and 2012 rises from the horizon, BizTimes Media recently conducted its first Business Dashboard Survey.

About 300 readers at completed the survey, which asked questions about the outlook for their companies in 2012.

Keeping in mind that most of the readers are decision-makers at their companies, we found some remarkable optimism among the respondents. The vast majority (65.5 percent) expect their company's revenues to increase in 2012 from 2011, while only 26.3 percent predict flat revenues and 8.3 percent foresee revenue declines.

Similarly, 62.2 percent expect higher company profits in 2012, while only 28.8 percent predict flat profits and 9.0 percent foresee profit declines.

Simply put, those are some bullish responses amid so many economic and political uncertainties.

Another encouraging sign came in the answers to a question about hiring projections for 2012, as 43.5 percent expect to add staff and 51.1 percent expect to retain their current staffing levels. Only 5.4 percent expect to cut staff.

Other findings from the survey include:

- 26.3 percent will make significant investments in equipment in 2012.

- 12.0 percent will expand their office/plant space in 2012.

- 7.2 percent will move to a new location in 2012.

- 32.5 percent will provide an employee wellness program in 2012.

- 49.3 percent expect their employee health care benefit costs will increase by up to 10 percent, and 15.9 percent expect those costs to rise up to 20 percent in 2012. (Of those expecting higher health care benefit costs, 47.1 percent will pass along some of those costs to their employees.)

- 62.0 percent will increase their investments in branding, advertising and marketing in 2012.

- 56.3 percent have a company social media strategy.

- 9.5 percent have a customized company smart phone "app."

- 62.1 percent will provide employee pay raises in 2012.

- 57.3 percent will increase the prices of their goods or services in 2012…

Thanks for the help, Santa.
Thanks for the help, Santa.

Hey Santa! I owe you one

Author's note: The following is an encore presentation of this blog, which originally was written on Christmas Eve in 2010. BizTimes Media and the author wish all of our readers a very merry Christmas and a peaceful and prosperous new year. 

Not to be confused with THE Christmas story, I would like to conclude the year with a Christmas story. And a lighthearted, silly little one at that, as a holiday diversion from the gritty issues of the day that are typically tackled in this space.

I'd like to go back to the day before Christmas Eve in 1997. As per usual, the December Wisconsin ground was covered with snow. And as per usual, I had put off a lot of Christmas errands that should have been done earlier in the month.

Perhaps the most important of those errands was taking our two sons, Justin (age 7 at the time) and James (age 4) to see Santa Claus. Now, it was down to crunch time. We're on the clock.

So, I'm driving down Layton Avenue toward Southridge Mall, where I'm told Santa awaits. I'm regretting it the entire time, as I know the line to see ol' Saint Nick is going to be long with lots of other children whose parents are procrastinators. The thought of standing in that line for an hour or two is dampening my holiday mojo. But you've got to do what you've got do...

We're stopped at the traffic light, about five blocks from the mall, when Justin suddenly yells from the back seat, "Dad, there's Santa!" His brother sits up straight in his car seat and screams, "Santa!" The boys are giggling with glee.

Confused, I look out the window, and what do I see? Not eight tiny reindeer, mind you.

Nope, I see Santa. He's standing in a vacant parking lot full of Christmas trees for sale.

Santa is commiserating with the guys at the Christmas tree stand.

The light is still red. My mind wanders. "Hey, wait a minute," my inner voice tells myself. "The boys think that guy is Santa. The guy is dressed in a Santa suit, replete with the beard. I'll bet if I just pull in there…

The clock is ticking on the Salvation Army's donation clock this year.
The clock is ticking on the Salvation Army's donation clock this year.

Salvation Army needs your help now

For many of us, the clock is ticking on our countdown to Christmas.

Maybe you've got a few last-minute gifts to buy or wrap. Maybe Santa has a few more stops to make. Maybe you've got some major grocery shopping to do to prepare for your guests. Or maybe you've got to prepare for traveling over the river and through the woods.

Regardless, the Salvation Army of Milwaukee County has a more urgent Christmas countdown, and the good folks there could use your help.

With only four days left before the Red Kettles retire until next Christmas, the local Salvation Army is still $1.3 million behind in it's $2.7 million goal.

"We're thankful for the donations we have received to date. Reaching our Red Kettle Christmas goal is critical to providing much-needed shelter for the homeless, food for the hungry and Christmas assistance for families in great need," said Major Roger Ross, Salvation Army Milwaukee County Commander.

The Salvation Army operates 84 seasonal and year-round programs and services to families living in Milwaukee County.

In 2010, the Salvation Army provided:

  • 132,439 meals to homeless individuals and families
  • 66,813 nights of lodging to homeless individuals
  • 96,572 toys to children of low-income and unemployed families

This year, the Salvation Army is prepared to provide more than 100,000 toys this Christmas to area children.

Donations can be made at Red Kettles through Christmas Eve, by texting 'Give' to 80888 to make a $10 donation or by visiting to make a donation with your smart phone or online.

I'm also hearing the local food pantries could use an extra boost to meet the urgent needs out there. If you can spare some talent or treasure, they could sure use the help.


While I'm at it, I'd like to take care of a couple of Christmas errands of my own. In the past couple of years, I have passed along some of the best holiday videos produced by Milwaukee public relations/advertising/marketing companies.

This year, through the T…