Success Built On Understanding Roles

January 16, 2006
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Announcement this week of the Grand Rapids Business Journal Newsmaker of the Year gives measure to long-term economic success in this region, and throughout the state. So, too, do the other nine nominees. This week the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.'s report of third quarter 2005 statistics shows the Grand Rapids-Wyoming, Kalamazoo-Portage and Muskegon-Norton Shores metro areas were three of just five regions in the state reporting job gains.

Even the often maligned manufacturing sector has shown two years of steady job growth. U.S. Rep. Vern Ehlers' legislation providing $110 million to the Manufacturing Extension Partnership program, which passed the House last fall, must continue to be pressed upon the Senate. Ehlers notes the legislation particularly assists the small and mid-size manufacturers develop new technologies to better compete globally. The decisions of major manufacturers will continue to be the fodder for daily reports, but strength in the crucial small business operations will continue to offer opportunity for this regional labor force.

The first weeks of 2006 show promise. The Business Journal reports this week on the expansion of Gill Industries into the European market, a "first step" as a global supplier of precision assemblies and stamped metal products. The company supplies the automotive, office furniture and utility vehicle industries. The European market is about the same size as Gill's North American market.

Magna Donnelly's new safety product, VideoMirror, was unveiled last week at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, winning a 2006 Technology is a Girl's Best Friend Diamond Product Showcase in the mobile/automotive category. The color video display slides out from the side of a car's rearview mirror when the vehicle is moved into reverse operation.

The importance of the work in medical manufacturing and of the local stakeholders is underscored, even by a court suit which seeks to defend product and intellectual property at Tillman Industries. The story on Tillman this week also provides example of the importance of tax abatements in assisting local entrepreneurs to stake claim to larger markets. Owner Roosevelt Tillman, for example, was able to make sales progress with (lower) product pricing based on those tax savings. City commissioners are often too one-sided in their understanding of how business owners can use those advantages.

The partnerships created by public entities, whether city or the state, do not drive the economy but certainly assist the business owners who do. For public entities, the idea is to contribute to that success with fewer bureaucrats, fewer regulations and fewer taxes. State Sen. Ken Sikkema and House Speaker Craig DeRoche understand those principles, and offered legislation this week to cut the tax bills of Michigan small businesses. The ability of small business to prosper — and thereby add to the tax base — is the idea, an ideology that must also be understood by the city.    

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