Star Tribune 100 survey: E-Commerce enthusiasm cools

  • Article by: JOHN J. OSLUND , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 25, 2001 - 10:00 PM

Decidedly cool.

That's how Minnesota's biggest companies feel toward e-commerce this year.

Doesn't fly.

That's how they feel about the prospect of two or three airlines dominating the nation's skies.

Yudof's right.

That's how they feel about the tug-of-war between Gov. Jesse Ventura and University of Minnesota President Mark Yudof over the university's budget request.

For the past three years, we've been asking Minnesota's biggest companies about technology, politics and the economy as we compile the Star Tribune 100, our annual listing of Minnesota's largest publicly held companies.

In that time, we've found steadily increasing excitement surrounding the Internet. Until this year, that is. Enthusiasm for the Net seems to have waned a bit. We specifically asked how much Minnesota companies expect to be selling to their customers over the Internet in the next 24 months.

Two years ago, 9.3 percent said they expected ''a lot'' of their business would be done via the Net. Last year, as e-commerce fever peaked, 16 percent said ''a lot.'' This year, the Net bubble having burst, the figure dropped back to about 10.4 percent.

And 75 percent of companies responding to the survey said they get less than 1 percent of their sales from the Internet. That's up from last year, when the figure was 68.3 percent. Like the Dow Jones industrial average and the Nasdaq composite index, e-enthusiasm among Minnesota companies seems to have reverted to 1998 levels.

But it's not as though things in general are going badly. Nearly 86 percent of our companies said things in the Land of Sky Blue Waters are "going in the right direction," while only 14 percent feel things have gotten "seriously off track" -- the same as a year ago.

And there remains unbridled optimism about the economy's prospects. Nine out of 10 companies responding believed the economy would achieve a "soft landing" -- in other words, it will slow but not enter a recession.

Our mail survey was conducted in February and early March, before the steep market correction of the past two weeks. The results are identical to a survey conducted in December by Star Tribune researchers and Business Wire.

What's important?

Executive priorities are clear. Hiring and retaining workers still is the most pressing issue for Minnesota business leaders, followed closely by education, wage rates and state tax rates. All four issues are considered "important" or "very important."

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