MadREP survey: Arrow's pointing up for local biz
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There’s no need to beat around the bush with the results from the Madison Region Economic Partnership’s (MadREP) expansive Business Retention & Expansion (BRE) Survey that was conducted in 2015 to better understand the challenges, opportunities, needs, and concerns of companies in the region. Businesses in Madison and the surrounding region are remarkably healthy and optimistic about their future, according to respondents.
That’s not to say there aren’t still areas that local businesses can improve on, says Paul Jadin, president of MadREP, but he believes overall the survey results suggest that our economy is strong and is expected to get even stronger in the next couple years.
According to Jadin, MadREP typically works with its economic development partners throughout its eight county region, which represents Columbia, Dane, Dodge, Green, Iowa, Jefferson, Rock, and Sauk counties, to distribute a 30-question business retention and expansion survey to local businesses. However, this latest BRE survey was a more comprehensive supplement aimed at getting a feel for how many companies in the region are exporting, how many have offices beyond the United States, whether companies are growing or contracting, how companies feel about their local services, and how they feel about their ability to hire labor.
The survey was distributed to 2,500 businesses in the Madison Region and 10% responded, representing all eight counties.
In spite of its comprehensive nature, Jadin says he believes there are only ever two questions that really matter: 1) How are you doing? 2) Is there anything we can do to help?
The answers to that first question is local businesses appear to be doing well.
The majority of responding companies project growth in both employment and physical expansion over the next three years.
- Nearly 52% of respondents say their employment needs are increasing, while 42% say that their employment needs are stable. Only 4.5% of respondents indicate decreasing employment needs, while the remaining 1% report not knowing.
- Over 56% of respondents say their company plans to physically expand in the next three years, reporting an increase in investment, jobs, and facility size.
- These projected expansions account for $270M in potential investment, 1,126 potential new jobs, and over 975,000 square feet in potential new facility space.
- Respondents report their top concerns for hindering business growth as labor force, competition, the overall economy, and regulations.
“I think in general the results suggest that the regional economy is strong,” says Jadin. “I think it’s the strongest region in the state of Wisconsin, certainly, and one of the strongest economies in the country, as well. So, no surprises there, but obviously we want to make sure that we take something that’s going well and build on it to the point where it’s a model for the rest of the country.”
One area of the survey results that stand out is innovation.
- Nearly 73% of respondents have introduced new products, services, or capabilities in the last five years.
- More than 60% of respondents anticipate launching new products or services in the next two years. Over 11% of respondents report not yet knowing if they will introduce new products or services, but may still have the potential to do so.
“I think it suggests that mature companies are still entrepreneurial and there is an environment in the Madison region in which it is easy to continue to be entrepreneurial,” Jadin notes. “There are places where you can find the type of assistance that you need, places like Sector67, for instance, where even some of our oldest, best established companies still go to do a little R&D.”