Projecting Business Growth in 2024

As 2024 gets underway, the Waukesha County business community remains optimistic about the coming year. A 2023 survey of Waukesha County businesses, conducted in partnership with Carroll University, Waukesha County, the Waukesha County Center for Growth and WOW Works shows that 80 percent of businesses plan to expand their Waukesha County workforce in the next two years.

Do you plan to expand your workforce in Waukesha County in the next two years?

  • Yes – 80%
  • No – 20%

And, 83.48 percent of businesses report that sales have grown in the past year, up from 73 percent of respondents who reported that sales had grown during a 2021 survey, coming out of the pandemic.

Among the top talent needs for employers in the next two years, the top need is for industry-specific skilled labor requiring some certifications, followed by sales & business development, administrative, and then industry-specific skilled labor requiring a four-year degree. While hiring has been top of mind for several years with business owners, and will likely continue, given demographic challenges, the issue of retaining employees seems to be improving, as 63% of employers said they have not experienced difficulty in retaining new employees.

Have you experienced difficulty in retaining new employees?

  • Yes – 30%
  • No – 62%
  • Other – 6%

When looking at employee attraction, Waukesha County employers are focused on local recruitment: only 22.48 percent say they recruit from outside of Wisconsin. For several years, the Alliance has pushed for a statewide talent recruitment and attraction initiative, recognizing that the vast majority of employers, particularly small to midsize businesses, are not recruiting from around the country.

However, employers are continuing the trend of looking at innovative hiring and retention offers, including tuition reimbursement, which is currently offered by 54.10 percent of Waukesha County employers – up from 49.15 percent in 2021.

The trend toward investment in automation continues in 2024. Among those employers planning to invest in automation or robotics, the highest percentage is for industry-specific manufacturing processes.

Given that more than 60 percent of employers are operating at 90-100 percent of their current square footage, Waukesha County businesses will continue to address space challenges in the coming year as they max out existing square footage and look at expansions or new, larger locations. A key focus for the Waukesha County Center for Growth, the county’s economic development organization, will be ensuring those businesses can find the land and buildings they need to continue growing in Waukesha County.

What percent of your facility’s square footage are you currently using?

  • 0-50%: 8%
  • 51-75%: 9%
  • 76-89%: 20%
  • 90-99%: 22%
  • 100%: 41%

A follow-up question asked whether business owners own or lease sufficient property to allow for expansion at their current location, and 40 percent of respondents said no, they do not have adequate property to allow for expansion. However, 68.97 percent of businesses are planning to expand in the next two years. While not all expansions will require physical space, the overall growth projections, combined with tight existing space needs, point to the need for continued work with Waukesha County businesses to support their growth.

When business owners were asked about the importance of different factors that would go into a decision to relocate their business, the top factor was crime, followed closely by workforce availability. Other factors that rank as very important include available parking, available existing building(s) and taxes. Crime rose to the top of the list, surpassing workforce availability, which had been the top factor in a 2021 survey. At that time, crime ranked as the tenth most important factor.

Overall, Waukesha County businesses remain optimistic about this year and continue to project growth.

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