Sharing Is A Familiar Sentiment

December 26, 2007
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Sharing is a common theme this time of year. It's also becoming more in vogue in the business world on a year-round basis. It has to. It's become a necessity to ensure survival. Coalitions attract economic growth dollars and further the diversification within specific industries.

A story on page B2 outlines the early success and promise of the collaborative efforts created by the Tool and Die Recovery Zone tax-free status, and the many other benefits that come with the arrangement.

The Global Tooling Alliance approved by the Michigan Strategic Fund last week is the 24th collaborative formed to take advantage of the zones, started in 2004 by the state of Michigan to assist the tool and die industry by making a company exempt from local taxes — with the local government's permission.

Participation in these alliances is contingent on the company being willing to collaborate with other tool and die companies, a concept that in decades past was somewhat foreign to domestic auto-parts makers, in particular. Previously, companies were much more guarded about sharing knowledge and strategy with those who were viewed as natural competitors. There remain sufficient built-in safeguards to protect intellectual property and patent-protected technology and products, but the thought that any entity can thrive as an island without a thoughtful eye toward best practices in the marketplace is much less likely to work in today's streamlined global business climate.

Much has been written here regarding the coalitions that have formed in this state around homeland security businesses, life sciences and technology.

Cooperation, partnerships, alliances — sharing — is becoming more the norm. Business associations have long been formed to generate information and advocacy for various industry groups.

Today's examples of collaboration are numerous. Design West Michigan has been formed to explore how design services can function as an economic building block for West Michigan. It is a precedent-setting effort. There is no U.S.-based regional organization for the design community. The program hopes to promote design as a regional asset and an industry unto itself. This portion of the innovation is being led by Lakeshore Advantage in partnership with The Right Place Inc.

What will these partnerships mean for long-term economic growth? According to a November memo from the Michigan Economic Development Corp. to the Michigan Strategic Fund Board, the MEDC surveyed 121 companies that were the first to join a Tool and Die Recovery Zone collaborative. The 2006 survey showed that 49 of the companies increased jobs by 317, 38 cut 177 jobs, and 34 remained the same. Eighty-one companies spent $12.3 million on new equipment. Forty-two said their business increased, 47 said it decreased, and 32 stayed the same.

These are mixed results to be sure, but nonetheless encouraging in the sense that many of these companies were likely to face extinction altogether if the concessions made possible by the state program were not ever put in place.

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