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Talent shortages, high operational costs remain hurdles for Madison businesses

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Downtown Madison

A pedestrian walks State Street on a winter morning in January 2021.

The two largest hurdles Madison businesses continue to face include talent shortages, as well as high operational costs, according to the results of a survey the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce released Thursday.

One the most notable findings of the survey is that 65% of businesses — up from 32% in spring — rated access to new talent as a top barrier, followed by increased operating costs at 59%, up from 43% in the spring.

Only 24% of businesses said they were able to expand their workforce in 2021.

But 65% of businesses said they experienced revenue growth in 2021, with 24% of businesses reporting losses.

“Support for small businesses remains a significant challenge, particularly as many business assistance programs are no longer a viable option,” said Madison Black Chamber of Commerce CEO Camille Carter. “While there are bright spots emerging in our economy and some businesses are on the road to recovery, there is still work ahead.”

The Fall 2021 Business Survey was a partnership among the Greater Madison Chamber, as well as Destination Madison, Downtown Madison Inc., the Madison Black Chamber of Commerce and the Latino Chamber of Commerce.

Chambers from DeForest, Fitchburg, Middleton and Verona also assisted. It’s the fourth survey the entities have conducted since the beginning of the pandemic.

The survey yielded responses from 305 businesses in the Madison area, which mainly include those that are locally, women- and/or minority-owned across a wide range of industries.

Around 80% of respondents said they have 50 or fewer employees, and 49% answered they were owned or led by people identifying as other than male.


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