Competition Cooperation Are Healthy

February 17, 2003
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Competition is healthy.

It's what drives business and is the cornerstone of the American free enterprise system.

That said, cooperation is healthy, too.

One needs look no further than the regional planning alliances that are springing up throughout West Michigan and the good economic development and land-use work those groups are doing.

But the line between competition and cooperation in the business arena is indeed fine. Often, the "what's in it for me" attitude supercedes real cooperation.

That's why the new initiative from The Chamber of Commerce of Grand Haven, Spring Lake and Ferrysburg is so vital.

A manufacturer's council that serves the Tri-Cities communities makes so much sense.

It fills the gap between similar panels in Muskegon, Holland and Grand Rapids, thus eliminating the need for progressive manufacturers in the middle of the Lakeshore area to drive longer distances to gather information from and share information with their peers.

But the best part about the Chamber's initiative is that it is in response to comments made to chamber staff during retention visits to area firms.

The manufacturers want such a program and The Chamber is trying to provide it.

What a concept.

That an eight-member group of business executives is now doing the legwork is fine, but all involved must keep in mind that past attempts at such councils and roundtables have failed.

Failure is not an option if the manufacturing community is to survive and thrive.

"We want to make sure we launch it correctly. We don't want it to be a flash in the pan," said Leon Span, the president of M&S Companies who's serving as chairman of a steering committee that's forming the Tri-Cities Manufacturer's Council.

Manufacturers are arguably bearing the brunt of this economic down cycle. On top of that, state funding for training programs is running dry. That's not a pleasant combination.

But manufacturer's councils, CEO roundtables, lean manufacturing tours, best practices seminars and the like are the ammunition business owners are using to fight back.

The councils in Grand Rapids, Muskegon and Holland all do good work and participants are able to share information without being competitively threatened.

That's the key. Making the sector stronger as a whole will benefit all.

The Tri-Cities Manufacturing Council is an important piece of the entire system.

The GH-Spring Lake Chamber is to be commended for listening to its constituents and responding with a program that promotes cooperation and, therefore, healthier competition.

Now the eight business leaders on the steering committee have to make sure that competition isn't a wedge that splits the cooperative spirit.  

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