It’s the most wonderful time of the year! The holidays are past and all that is left is a brand new year, shiny and unmarked like a field of newly fallen snow. No tracks, no dirt, no grime – just a wide open expanse that is pure and untouched, ready for anything. That’s how I always think of the New Year.
It’s time to set our goals and expectations. What will be accomplished in 2011? Last year at this time, we consistently heard the phrase, “cautiously optimistic.” Truly, I think we were more cautious than optimistic. Times were tough, news was bad and business was slow. So much had changed so quickly, that I’m not even sure we had caught our breath by the time the ball had dropped in the Big Apple.
Are we further along this time? Economists predict slow growth yet in 2011 and are certain that we won’t see growth increase to pre-recession figures until at least 2013. In fact, much of the information coming out of Washington these days is that the worst is behind us.
As a state and as a region, I believe that there is much in the way of good news that will allow us to move forward, more optimistically and less cautiously. At the heart of this optimism is the focus business, government and education have on job creation. Getting people back to work is job number one and there are resources committed to ensuring we do this.
As an example, the Jobs Bill passed this fall, a bill intended to spur employment by providing businesses with incentives to hire new workers. The bill will result in more direct assistance for small businesses through the national network of Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs). Additionally, the bill also provides capital for community banks to help spur lending.
A survey of more than 70 Wisconsin Chamber of Commerce executives has found more of them believing the number of jobs will increase next year. The annual economic outlook, conducted by Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, found almost half of the Chamber of Commerce executives surveyed throughout the state are optimistic that there will be more jobs available in their communities next year. That’s well above 34 percent in the last survey. Also, 40 percent in the current survey are expecting moderate income growth in 2011. That’s up from 28 percent from last year.
Another reason for optimism is what we have seen in our own Center. In the past fiscal year (October 09 to September 10,) twenty-three of our clients opened their doors for the first time. Our clients were able to secure almost four million dollars in capital infusion, through loans, SBA-guaranteed loans, and venture capital. According to our clients, almost thirty new jobs were created and over 750 jobs were retained.
Is it time for optimism? I think so. The opportunity is there. It is up to us as to how we plan to take advantage of it. I hope as you make your plans and set your goals for this brand new year, that you reach out to the resources that are available. The SBDC and our partners are here to serve. Together, there is so much we can do.
Think back to that clean, unbroken field of snow. As a child, was there a more magical moment than being the first one to trample through it and relishing the tracks you made? 2011 is our opportunity. Go ahead and plow forward!