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Survey: New North businesses profitable, but cautious about hiring


APPLETON, WI (WTAQ) - A new study released during the 2012 New North Summit in Appleton Friday sheds a light on how area businesses view the economy.

On Friday, First Business Bank released its annual economic survey, which found that companies saw profits grow this year, but that isn't translating to hiring in big numbers.

According to the survey, businesses say profitability has increased since 2011. Revenue has gone up by about 4%. And expectations for 2013 are strong, with 82 percent of businesses looking for growth.

Just 20 percent of businesses slashed its workforce in 2012, but they remain cautious to hire.

Economists and business leaders at the New North Summit say the worst of the recession is behind us.

"Two word answer is, it's improving. But it's improving at a rate less than we'd like to see,” Dennis Winters told FOX 11. 

Winters is the chief of the state's Office of Economic Advisors. He presented the study’s findings at the summit Friday. Winters says a lack of consumer spending leads to a lack of business growth.

"We're still paying off a lot of debt we carried through,” said Winters.

Many companies surveyed in Northeast Wisconsin say they're less likely to expand with new construction and hiring.  Local construction companies say they're back on the job, but not at the same pre-recession level.

“Our customers take longer time to make decisions on an investment. Their boards are more cautious,” said Bob DeKoch, the president of Appleton's Boldt Construction.

DeKoch says despite cautious moves, he's still looking to hire.

"We had to reduce our staff by fifteen percent through the downturn but we're back up now, higher than we were before. We're going to grown another 15 to 20 jobs next year. I think we'll see cautious improvement in 2013 but we might see a bit of a downturn in 2014 and 2015,” said Koch.

Economists say we probably won't see the employment rate back to where it was before the recession until 2015.