Considering the whacking they took in 2020, Dane County businesses have a somewhat surprising level of optimism heading into 2021, according to the findings of an annual economic survey conducted by First Business Financial Services Inc.

Officially, the Wisconsin-based bank holding company’s survey is titled First Business Bank: 2021 Business Statistics and Trends Report. While it should be noted that not many survey respondents were in industries that took the brunt of the pandemic, and most of them failed to meet 2020 expectations due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the key trend identified in the survey is that most of them expect a stronger business performance in the new year.

When asked how their overall business performance was in 2020 compared to expectations, 47% said worse than expected, 33% said better than expected, and 21% said as expected. However, when asked if they think their business will perform better or worse in 2021 compared to 2020, 60% said better, 12% said worse, and 28% said no change. What’s more, one-third of respondents outperformed expectations this past year, citing “opportunities created by the pandemic” as the reason for better performance.

The 2021 report was conducted by Dr. Moses Altsech, who teaches in the marketing department at the UW–Madison Wisconsin School of Business and is the president of Moses Altsech Consulting LLC. Given the way 2020 unfolded, Altsech is surprised by the level of optimism expressed in the survey, but he offered one caveat to the findings — the industries that have been most negatively impacted by the pandemic represent a small percentage of the Dane County respondents.

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