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Dec 7, 201012:00 AMAfter Hours

with Jody Glynn Patrick

IB 100 Comments: And the Survey Said....
What do area business managers/owners think about the economy, and government's role in it?

IB 100 Comments: And the Survey Said....<br>
  What do area business managers/owners think about the economy, and government's role in it?
This week, since I am wearing a sling and brace and typing with only one hand (fall on the ice), I am departing from my usual blog format to present, in this space, a report I already had prepared as a Web story. Next week I'll be "back" with the more traditional After Hours offering. Meanwhile, my thanks to Gary Votpahl of Hoard's Dairyman magazine for the cow calendar. I absolutely love it and will hang it on my office wall for 2011!

Now, on to the business story....

With the assistance of Chamberlain Research Consultants, IB has been polling 100 area company owners/top managers about their perceptions of the U.S. economy, state economy, and local economy — as well as the impact of the collective on their businesses — and publishing the results in our print issues every month for two years. Typically, we include comments in that section, but for the December issue, we've opted to bring the contents to our online audience as well, here.

Because we have permissions to acknowledge the respondents in some instances but not all, we've opted to make all of these December poll comments (forwarded to us by CRC, as an independent third party) anonymous. The quotes are direct from the participants with no editing, a single response per bullet point; they are grouped together as we try to see patterns of responses.

Please comment on your current economic outlook:

Still Concerned

  • I think that Government, both state, local and national, needs to pull their heads out of their asses. I think all politicians need to do a report on the words "common sense" and try to learn how to get some.

  • Slow growth — somewhat lumpy. We need to make significant adjustments to our state budget with significant expense reductions and a redirection of funds focused on true economic development and real private job creation.

  • Although there has been some economic growth in a macro sense, the housing and construction industries are not in any from of recovery, and we will not have meaningful economic growth until these industries start to show growth. Inventory of new and existing homes remains very high, and will continue to remain high since there are a number of homes that will be added from future foreclosures. As long as people feel that home prices may continue to drop, and interest rates will remain low, they are not motivated to buy a home at this time. Uncertainties about the economy also negatively affect their willingness to buy and take on debt. Probably the best thing the federal reserve could do is to signal that they will be slowly be increasing interest rates in the near future for some period of time. That would motivate the few people that are currently in the home market to purchase a home now. As much as I like the low interest rates we have (because they save me money), they do not provide a reasonable rate of return for seniors and other people that have their savings in guaranteed and insured investments. The federal government refuses to acknowledge that prices are going up because they do not include real food prices or energy costs in their inflation index. They don't acknowledge that food prices are rising because they believe people will substitute lower cost foods so they say there is no inflation. Steak can go up 20% but people will switch to hamburger so the government says there is no inflation.

  • Taxing the "rich" won't pay for all the stimulus money being handed out. Relying on exports to fuel the economy is a good idea, but that's what every other government wants to do, too. Therefore, we have to decide on a tax policy that affects everyone, and encourages innovation and investment. We may also want to target a couple industries to get them to a world-class status (and high-price products) to regain some technological prestige. We also should look at our policy of policing the world, and tone that down.

Optimism

  • We continue to see a strong demand for IT services in the small and midsize space.

  • My outlook is better after the recent state and federal election results, but only time will tell if we will have serious issues addressed or more rhetoric.

  • We think business will improve slightly, particularly over the next 90 day time frame, then perhaps dip some relative to the prior year, but then we hope level out from mid 2011 and beyond. We don't expect big improvements, but slight improvements nonetheless.

  • Our industry is a leading indicator of economic recovery. We are having our best year ever.

  • Seeing lots of leads for bigger jobs and new home construction suddenly. It will take time to find out if they pay off.

  • After 11/3, things are looking more positive.

Pertinent Summary Comment

  • This recession should be a learning lesson for the consumer, not to over burden themselves with too much debt.

Heath care question put to the group: Any additional thoughts about Health Care Reform and its impact on your business?

Wait-and-See/Still Considering Impact

  • Not at this time; still waiting to see what the new election will bring to the whole health care reform.

  • If the government provides it for "free" — that is what I would suggest in the future as the preferred option. But I'm not really sure how it will work — if it is even actually enacted.

  • I am waiting to see how the results of the recent elections will change the overall makeup of the legislation.

  • I feel there will be some changes to the present proposal as a result of the recent elections and I am not sure anyone really understands the consequences of all 2,000+ pages to begin with.

  • It is too early to tell, but the concept of the exchange must be well thought out in order to minimize complete disruption in the health insurance market.

  • We will do what's best for our employees and the business. If that means providing higher wages and letting the employees choose health care options instead of the company providing them, we will explore that. In the meantime I will hold out "hope" for "change" to the current plan.

  • It's also important as a recruitment/retention strategy. There's no simple solution at this time. Many options may change as we move forward. It definitely seems like a moving target.

  • Taking a wait and see approach! Our premium increase this year was the lowest increase in five years, being just shy of 10%.

  • Just starting to think about this issue internally.

  • Anxious to learn more about the details.

  • There are so many unknowns that until we have some real numbers to work with, it's hard to know what we'll do. We'll certainly continue to do what we have to do to remain competitive, but that cuts both ways ...we have to remain competitive for employees, but also in terms of our ability to remain profitable and to invest in other things that are also priorities. Balancing all those priorities will be the challenge.

  • With the change in control of Congress, the uncertainty of what will be in place over the next two years continues to grow. I have no idea what our healthcare strategy for our employers will look like in two years.

Optimism

  • So far, I think it improves the situation.

  • There's now some hope for change.

  • I think this will attempt to make the benefits playing field more even.

  • Hopefully there will eventually be an affordable public option for small business.
    Wrong path

  • The federal law is headed down the wrong path.

  • Costs need to be controlled and none of the current health care reform proposals come close to offering improvements in overall cost. The health systems continue to charge for inefficiencies and employers through premiums finance that inefficiency.

  • We have two companies. One company, up until July I, paid 100% of health care premium. Now I pay 85%. The other (company) we have always paid half of premium. My costs are going up on both. Doing the right thing over time has resulted in my company getting penalized. The law did nothing to cap costs because Obamacare paid off his campaign contributors. It is disgusting that they did not enact tort reform and set the high cost premium target so high that no one will pay the tax. Obama's precious public sector employees get the Cadillac plans and pay no taxes. That tax on Cadillac plans would hold down the demand on health care and the tax could have covered the whole shortfall on Medicare. Disgusting, disingenuous, and clearly one reason the Dems took a pounding in the recent election.

  • No one fully understands how it will work, and how it will affect our current insurance. My belief is that if it stands as passed health care premiums will go up and we will eventually be forced to enroll our employees in some type of government sponsored option.

  • I wish it would be repealed.

  • Everyone should contribute towards his health care. It can't be without cost for half the population.

  • We recently had to stop offering our health care plan due to increase in premiums and decrease in revenue. It's my humble opinion that government should not impose health care reform, but rather do all its business in the USA to create revenue for small business.

  • Health Care Reform in its current state is horrible for small business

  • The uncertainty of what is going to happen is the worse thing for us now.

  • Get the government out of it and let me make my own decision. I provide health insurance and pay 70% of premium for single or family plan. I choose to do it freely for the benefit of my employees and the advantage of my company. Government stay out!

Pertinent observation

  • As a small business owner, I would not be able to continue in business without health insurance.

We appreciate the time and thought our IB100 respondents put into the survey questions every month, and the additional comments made. If you lead a Dane County company and would like to participate (a benefit is seeing results in "real time" on a private website before publication), e-mail jodyp@magnapubs.com.

Sign up for the free IB Update — your weekly resource for local business news, analysis, voices and the names you need to know. Click here.

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About This Blog

IB Publisher Emeritus Jody Glynn Patrick blends work and life in this very clear departure from her other writing for In Business magazine. Awarded national recognition for both her previous work as a newspaper columnist and her journalistic leadership at IB, she brings us all back "Closer to Home" with her insights and remembrances. A nice place to be "After Hours." Check back often!

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