West Michigan Business Perseveres

June 21, 2002
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The economic survey conducted by Grand Valley State University on behalf of Grand Rapids Business Journal and Plante & Moran provides far more than statistical revelations for the coming year; it also provides testament to the tenacity of business owners and employees. While the survey was specific to mid-size, private firms, it is quite likely to reflect the opinions and business plans of all companies.

Two other economic reports are published this week: the Manpower Quarterly Employment Outlook for the first quarter of 2002, and the Business and Institutional Furniture Manufacturer’s Association quarterly outlook.

The GVSU survey reflects the conclusions by Manpower, showing 76 percent of employers surveyed expected no change in hiring in the first quarter. More important, not one employer is uncertain in this regard: No one indicated they were unsure of hiring decisions, compared to 3 percent of employers in Michigan and 7 percent nationally.

The BIFMA report was exceedingly dismal in terms of 2001 profit losses, but also projects a modest recovery in mid to late 2002. Herman Miller marketing will have center stage this winter, with its chairs profiled during the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. The bottom line at Steelcase is likely assisted by its diversification into building offices, especially as F.W. Dodge reports new construction in the four-county area was up 80 percent in September alone, compared to 2000, and most of that is in non-residential building.

The survey conducted by GVSU was designed to separate the events of Sept. 11 and the issues associated with an economic downturn. Local business owners commented that the attacks united all Americans including local employers and employees, and that the downturn started prior to those attacks. Most business owners expect to make changes in security planning, including technology and software. Comments included the advice that business owners need to let employees know “We will get through this,” and that positive things will come from it over the next year or two.

One business owner commented, “We need to live our lives as we normally would, so that we don’t negatively impact each other.” Others emphasized the goal is to persevere, and most agreed the recession will last only three to four months (from inception).

Overall the survey reflects tenacity and optimism, which bodes well for the New Year. And for that, West Michigan can be most thankful this week.  

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