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Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

Local businesses expect growth in 2012

Despite an uncertain national economic climate and an ongoing debt crisis in Europe, some Milwaukee companies saw record growth in 2011. In addition, nearly 80 percent expect higher sales in 2012 than in 2011, according to a recently released confidence poll.

Both Johnson Controls and the Wisconsin Energy Corp., two of Milwaukee’s Fortune 1000 businesses, reported on Oct. 27 earnings significantly higher than their 2010 numbers. Johnson Controls, which manufactures both automotive and building systems, reported record net sales and income in the fourth quarter of 2011. The company’s total sales for their fiscal year ending Sept. 30 were $40.8 billion. For the year, the company earned $1.62 billion, up from $1.49 billion in 2010.

Johnson Controls CEO Stephen Roell said the company was pleased with the growth when the numbers were released.

“We are optimistic as we begin fiscal 2012,” Roell said in the company’s news release. “Our long-term objective is to profitably grow faster than our underlying industries, and we will make record levels of investment in 2012 to support that goal.”

The impact of those investments on the company’s headquarters in Milwaukee remain to be seen, but Paul Mason, executive director of the company’s global media relations, said there are currently job openings at the company in Milwaukee that can be checked on its website.

Mason could not specifically say the impact the company’s growth would have on the city.

“As you might imagine, since we are a global company we do not offer employment projections on a market-by-market basis,” he said.

The Wisconsin Energy Corp. has also seen significant jumps in revenues and profits, reporting net income of  $398.7 million through the first nine months of 2011. The fiscal year for the energy company ends Dec. 30. These numbers are up from $328.8 million in the first nine months of 2010.

Company spokesperson Brian Manthey said the company is prohibited from discussing end-of-the-year number projections at this point because of U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission restrictions.

While these two companies have reported increases in sales and profits, overall confidence of businesses in the Milwaukee area can be described as “lukewarm,” according to Bret Mayborne, economic research director at the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce, which conducted the survey.

The survey, which polled 145 Milwaukee area firms employing more than 60,100 people total, asked businesses if they were projecting their sales, profits and employment to increase.

Among those categories, the largest variance came in firms’ expectations of higher sales in 2012 than in 2011. Of those polled, 79 percent of firms expected a growth in that figure, starkly contrasting the 56 percent which expected increased sales going into 2011 when asked a year ago.

“(The 56 percent figure) was taken coming basically right out of the recession, when businesses were first seeing signs of recovery,” Mayborne said. “Over the last twelve months businesses are significantly more optimistic than they were a year ago.”

Mayborne said while growth is expected to continue, an acceleration of that growth was unlikely in Milwaukee.

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