Education Taxes Worry Detroit

March 4, 2005
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GRAND RAPIDS — As first vice chairperson of the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce and President, Founder and CEO of Detroit-based Strategic Staffing Solutions, Cynthia Pasky has a pretty good idea of what worries business owners there the most.

Topping that east side list is education. Pasky said metro Detroit business owners are concerned whether the public school system can produce a work force that can move into the jobs that are available and will be created.

Another significant worry revolves around the state's tax structure, whether it can be competitive for all industries and not just manufacturing.

"Those would be the two largest. You're always going to have infrastructure concerns that have to be addressed, like transportation. In our region, we do need some form of a transportation system," said Pasky.

Paskey started Strategic Staffing Solutions, an information technology consultant, in Detroit 15 years ago. Today the firm has more than 750 consultants, roughly $80 million in annual sales, and at least a dozen branch offices in markets like Chicago,Philadelphia and New York.

Crain's Detroit Business named Strategic Staffing as one of the top 25 women-owned businesses in the area and as one of the best places to work in the region. The business publication also cited Pasky as one of Detroit's Most Influential Women. Strategic Staffing also has earned the coveted Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year award.

Pasky will become chairperson of the Detroit chamber in July and is the featured speaker at The Top Women-Owned Businesses in West Michigan luncheon being held at the Pinnacle Center on Tuesday, March 8. The event is sponsored by the Grand Rapids Business Journal.

"What we really need is to be able to educate our young people so they can be ready for and able to learn the skills necessary for the jobs that are actually going to be here. And then you need a tax structure that supports the existing businesses that we have, recognizing that they're not all manufacturing businesses, and looks to create growth within that," she said.

"I think we have serious challenges right now with both of those. I don't think we do, I know we do," she added.

Pasky said her chamber colleagues have been very active in education, and the chamber's automakers are aligning with the group's service providers and getting ready to talk with state lawmakers about a more equitable tax structure.

"I think we will do that. I think we'll make some good suggestions that recognize how important a General Motors, a DaimlerChrysler, and a Ford are to Michigan. But also don't smack around a S3 and a SBC. You can do something that takes care of everyone," she said.

Besides being one of Detroit's most respected business leaders, Pasky also is a hockey fan. She said she misses watching the Detroit Red Wings play.

"It's so hard not having hockey. I'm a pretty rabid hockey fan," she said.

Before the National Hockey League season was officially cancelled in mid-February, one estimate conservatively pegged the economic loss of a lost season to Detroiters who depend on the game at $10 million.

"We have a lot of parking structures, restaurants, pubs, ushers, and vendors that have lost a significant portion of income," said Pasky. "A business person that has never been to a hockey game is still going to recognize the impact not having those games is having on our area, and it's just unfortunate that the players don't recognize that."    

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